Arsenal’s loss to Barcelona seemed almost inevitable the moment Lionel Messi opened the scoring at the end of the first half.
Sergio Busquets own goal equaliser gave the Gunners a small glimmer of hope, after all as it stood they were now actually going through to the quarter finals of the Champion’s League, the only problem being that, there were still over 30 minutes of football to play, which when your facing Barcelona at the Nou Camp can be an eternity.
Robin Van Persie’s sending off poured sand on any fire Arsenal were hoping to ignite and from then on it was literally a passing masterclass in the Total Football mould of the 1970’s Dutch teams, with the average spectator being forgiven for not having a clue just what position each Barcelona player was meant to be playing, such was the magnitude of their attacking interplay.
The problem was that regardless of whether Van Persie’s sending off was arguably a moot point as it’s highly unlikely an eleven man Arsenal would have been able to cope with such a rampant Barca- he should not have been sent off and the game should have been played out evenly- at least in terms of the amount of personnel.
Van Persie’s second yellow card for shooting when through on goal, despite the referee blowing for offside was one of the most ridiculous decisions I’ve seen since, erm, Sunday. What makes the referees decision even worse is the fact that he’s considered one of Europe’s best, but for some reason seemed totally bereft of any common sense.
Anyone who’s been to the Nou Camp will tell you the noise and the atmosphere, particularly on a Champion’s League night can be deafening and this is surely something that cannot have escaped Massimo Busacca. Although you’d expect the players to hear the whistle, when a striker goes through on goal, he’s always likely to have a shot, even if he thinks he’s heard a whistle, or isn’t sure.
It was in the earlier rounds that Barcelona’s Mauel Pinto- the Catalans reserve goalkeeper, tricked Copenhagen’s Cesar Santin into believing he was offside by whistling to the striker as he went through on goal.
I’m not claiming striker’s have a god-given right to ignore the whistle, but there’s got to be a level of common sense prevailing when it comes to the situation the forward was in at the time of the ‘offence.’
Many will argue that the game was beyond Arsenal anyway- despite the score being in their favour- so what does it matter? Well let me ask you this if Teddy Sheringham had been sent off for an innocuous challenge in the 88th minute in the Nou Camp in 1999, wouldn’t many have still claimed that with Bayern Munich ribbons already on the trophy, the game was over? Or if that prime example of cheating pond life Steven Gerrard had been dismissed at half time in Istanbul, would that have also been irrelevant?
I don’t think Arsenal would have won had Van Persie stayed on the pitch, but the fact is we’ll never know. Later on when Niklas Bendnter went through on goal, and duly fluffed his chance, there may have been one or two Gooners wondering whether Van Persie would have buried that opportunity.
After both games, my social networks were alive with Red after Red, screaming, ranting, threatening and despairing at the ineptitude of the referees and how they’d robbed us.
While I thought both losses were due to more than just poor officials, I could more than understand the feeling of outrage that many felt. If United had gone down to ten men in the same manner against any team, then I shudder to think how I’d feel, I doubt I’d be able to publish it on here, as there’s not much internet access in Strangeways, where I’d arguably be locked up for attempting to attack the ref. Oh and I know it’s now called HMP Manchester, my mates all write to me from there regularly.
The fact is far too often this season it’s been referees that have been the centre of attention and while I’ve got no great love for Arsenal or Robin Van Persie, I couldn’t help but feeling a little sympathy with him after the game and agreed with his summation that it’s a R20;joke” and as one man once sang “that joke isn’t funny anymore.
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