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Chelsea lose their heads and their dignity
Maybe Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo was wrong on all the big decisions in Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg — it absolutely does not justify Chelsea’s reaction.
UEFA’s “Respect” campaign was, again, left in tatters as pandemonium erupted after Andres Iniesta’s late equaliser sent Barcelona through on the away goals rule.
Didier Drogba had long been substituted but found enough energy to sprint onto the field at fulltime and harangue the referee, collecting a booking in the process.
Chelsea stewards and his team mates failed to control him as he returned for another bite, before turning his wrath to the cameras.
During the match the Ivorian striker had shown the best and worst sides of his game and should look to himself when considering why referees perhaps do not react kindly to his team’s appeals.
He often showed barnstorming strength to battle through the Barcelona defence but, as so often before, suddenly developed legs of straw when he decided it was time to win a freekick.
On one occasion he actually injured his back while performing a fierce body flip of frustration after another collapse had been waved away by the referee.
Midfielder Michael Ballack, another hugely experienced player, also went ballistic, neck veins popping Roy Keane-style as he screamed in the face of the referee and barged him after he opted not to give a penalty for a late handball.
He had been a bit quieter earlier when the Norwegian sent off Barcelona’s Eric Abidal for clipping the heels of Nicolas Anelka – but refereeing errors are obviously acceptable “at this level” if they work in your favour.
Manager Guus Hiddink, admirably calm amid the mayhem and normally among the most thoughtful and intelligent observers of the game, did himself no favours when he backed Drogba’s actions.
“I can fully understand his reaction,” he said. “He was full of emotion and full of adrenalin but he was in control. If he went beyond that and started hitting he should go, but I fully understand his behaviour after the game and I will protect him.”
England midfielder Frank Lampard added: “I dont think you can expect grown men to walk off and say nothing,” a comment wide open for an all-too-obvious retort.
John Terry, captain of Chelsea, captain of England and supposedly a role model for all young players, was another to blot his reputation after a superb playing performance.
“I’m fully behind Didier,” he said.” It is the referee who should face the consequences.”
What these millionaire “grown men” do not seem to realise is that as their example filters down through the game, and it does, there will eventually be no referees left for them or anyone else, to vent their frustrations on.
PHOTO: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh