There is a growing feeling among some on the peninsula that Italian teams are being unfairly targeted by certain referees. Carlo Garganese looks at 10 examples in recent years where officials have damaged the chances of both club and country...Earlier today FIGC president Giancarlo Abete was forced to make a statement rejecting talk in Italy that there is a conspiracy against Italian teams in Europe.
There is widespread anger in the peninsula after Tom Henning Ovrebo's disastrous performance during Bayern-Fiorentina on Wednesday night.
Carlo Garganese looks at the 10 most controversial refereeing performances involving Italian squads in recent years, and discovers some interesting trends...
10) LAZIO v Dinamo Bucharest 2007 – Tom Henning Ovrebo
During the 2007/08 Champions League preliminary rounds, referee Ovrebo strangely failed to notice a blatant elbow by Dinamo Bucharest’s Valentin Nastase, which left Emilson Cribari unconscious and forced to wear a protective mask for over two months.
The Norwegian then reduced the Aquile to nine men during the course of the 90 minutes by handing Valon Behrami a severe red card and a double booking to Massimo Mutarelli. Despite the risky 1-1 home draw, Lazio went on to qualify with a 3-1 victory in Romania.
9) Netherlands v ITALY 2008 – Peter Frojdfeldt
In their opening group game of Euro 2008, Italy faced a difficult match against Marco van Basten’s Holland. The score was goalless after a tense opening, but the Oranje then broke the deadlock on 26 minutes in chaotic circumstances.
Swedish referee Frojdfeldt allowed Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s ‘offside’ goal to stand, later claiming that the injured Christian Panucci, who was lying off the pitch behind the goal, was playing Van Nistelrooy onside. While technically FIFA’s rules stated that a player behind the goal-line is still active, Frojdfelt failed to recognise that Panucci had been barged off the pitch. Italy went on to be thumped 3-0.
8) Lyon v FIORENTINA 2008 – Peter Frojdfeldt
Fiorentina were involved in a hugely controversial 2-2 draw with Lyon in their opening Champions League group game at the Stade Gerland. The Viola led 2-0 with just 17 minutes to go and were coasting to victory when defender Luciano Zauri went down in his own six yard box with a head injury, and stayed down dazed and confused for well over a minute.
However, Lyon un-sportingly refused to kick the ball out of play, and then used Zauri, who would be stretchered off with a suspected fractured cheekbone, in order to beat the offside trap, thus allowing substitute Piquionne to score to make it 2-1. Lyon then equalised five minutes from time and after the game striker Alberto Gilardino launched a tirade in which he branded the French team “cheats”. Fiorentina would eventually fail to qualify for the knockouts.
7) Liverpool v JUVENTUS 2005 - Frank De Bleeckere
Juventus were expected to steamroll a rather average-looking Liverpool side in their quarter final tie in the Champions League in 2005. However, they were surprisingly eliminated 2-1 on aggregate with all the goals arriving in the first leg at Anfield.
The Bianconeri were furious with their defeat, though, after Alessandro Del Piero had a clear goal disallowed for offside at Anfield. Had the goal stood, Juve would have progressed to the semis.
6) MILAN v Liverpool 2005 – Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez
Milan’s collapse in the 2005 Champions League final against Liverpool, having been 3-0 up at half time, is still hard to believe some five years on. But, would it have happened had referee Gonzalez not awarded Liverpool a penalty for a clear Steven Gerrard dive?
Having fought back to 3-2 through goals from Vladimir Smicer and Gerrard, the Englishman charged in the area and went down under pressure from Rino Gattuso. Replays showed that the Liverpool legend had conned Gonzalez. Xabi Alonso scored the rebound after his penalty was saved, and the Reds would go on to win the Champions League on penalties.
5) ROMA v Arsenal 2009 – Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez
It was all to play for in the Champions League last 16 second leg at the Stadio Olimpico after Arsenal had edged the first leg 1-0 at the Emirates. Roma were leading 1-0 in the Eternal City through Juan when Marco Motta was pulled down by Gael Clichy inside the area, right on the stroke of half-time.
It seemed like a stonewall penalty, and indeed 99 referees out of 100 would have pointed to the spot, such was the scenario, but not Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez. After wasting a host of other chances, including a Julio Baptista sitter, Roma would exit on penalties.
4) Liverpool v INTER 2008 – Frank De Bleeckere & Tom Henning Ovrebo
Inter may have a dreadful recent record in the Champions League, but in 2007/08 they certainly weren’t helped by referees. In their last 16 first leg against Liverpool at Anfield, Marco Materazzi was sent off after half-an-hour by referee De Bleeckere following two of the softest yellow cards you will ever see.
This sending off forced Inter to play two-thirds of the game with 10 men, and it was clear that from this point onwards a draw was always going to be a good result. They almost managed this, until a rather fortuitous goal by Dirk Kuyt five minutes from time and a last-gasp Steven Gerrard second.
In the return leg, Inter had to play most of the second half a man down also when Nicolas Burdisso was scandalously red carded for a 50-50 coming-together in the middle of the park with Lucas Leiva. Inter had dominated up until that stage with Zlatan Ibrahimovic squandering a host of easy chances. The Nerazzurri went on to lose 1-0 on the night. Guess the referee in this game? Yes, Tom Henning Ovrebo!
3) ITALY v Romania 2008 – Tom Henning Ovrebo
Ovrebo first angered Italian fans during the Azzurri’s second group game at Euro 2008. Having lost their opener 3-0 to Holland, the world champions risked elimination from the competition against Romania.
Italy thought they had taken the lead on half time as Luca Toni headed home from a cross, but the goal was ruled out for offside despite the then Bayern Munich man being two yards behind the last defender. Later in the game at 1-1, Ovrebo awarded the Tricolorii a controversial penalty that would have knocked Italy out were it converted, but Gianluigi Buffon saved from Adrian Mutu.
2) Bayern Munich v FIORENTINA – Tom Henning Ovrebo
On Wednesday night Ovrebo hit the headlines for the fourth time after damaging an Italian club. The Norwegian made a string of blunders during FC Bayern’s 2-1 win over Fiorentina in their last 16 first leg tie in Munich.
The Viola declared at the end of the game that they had been “robbed” after Miroslav Klose scored a last-gasp winner from a position that was at least three yards offside. This followed a number of other dubious incidents, including the harsh sending off of Massimo Gobbi, and Ovrebo’s failure to dish out similar treatment to Bayern’s Mark van Bommel and match-winner Klose.
1) ITALY v South Korea 2002 – Byron Moreno
The 2002 World Cup has gone down in infamy due to the huge number of refereeing mistakes that helped eliminate a string of top nations, and also ensured that co-hosts South Korea made it all the way to the semi-finals.
During their final two group games against Croatia and Mexico, Italy had four perfectly good goals disallowed, but somehow managed to scrape through to the second round where they met South Korea.
Against Guus Hiddink’s men, Italy again had a valid goal chalked off, a golden goal from Damiano Tommasi which would have taken them to the next round. Francesco Totti was sent off for diving when replays showed he had lost his footing, while the Koreans were awarded a controversial penalty for a Christian Panucci tugging offence. Italy eventually lost after Ahn Jung-Hwan’s golden winner, but the match and Ecuadorian referee Byron Moreno have gone down in Italian football notoriety.
Perhaps you can call it coincidence, but it is very interesting to note that a number of particular referees appear to repeatedly crop up during games where decisions have gone against Italian teams. The most prolific is, of course, Ovrebo who officiated four of the matches mentioned above.
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