Referee’s apology does little to calm Huracan
As Estudiantes bid to give Argentina the South American crown by winning the Libertadores Cup final, the fallout from Sunday’s Clausura title decider continues at an intensity not unlike that which followed Chelsea’s elimination by Barcelona in their Champions League semi-final.
It was not a final as such, but Huracan went into their last game of the season a point ahead of Velez Sarsfield who they happened to meet in a title decider at Velez. The home side got the win they needed to overtake Huracan on points with a goal scored by Maxi Moralez six minutes from time.
Referee Gabriel Brazenas apologised on Monday for mistakes he realised he made when he saw TV replays in the comfort of his armchair, saying he missed a penalty he should have awarded Velez and a foul in the build-up to the winning goal which he said should not have stood.
This was of little comfort to Huracan’s Angel Cappa, the normally measured coach who lost his cool in the closing minutes of the match after his side fell behind and said “the referee handed Velez the title on a tray”.
Velez coach Ricardo Gareca has countered that, and said he was surprised by Brazenas’s apology. Moralez shot the loose ball into the net after a collision between Huracan keeper Gustavo Monzon and Velez substitute Joaquin Larrivey, which Gareca argued was 50-50 and the keeper was to blame for misjudging his sortie.
And all of this after:
1. The match went ahead despite the H1N1 flu scare that has claimed at least 60 lives and a government recommendation to people to avoid public gatherings.
2. It was halted for half an hour after 19 minutes when the skies opened to pour torrential rain and hail onto that part of Buenos Aires but at no point did it seem likely play wouldn’t resume. This affected Huracan’s flowing style more than the combative football that suited Velez.
3. There was a pitch invasion at the end by Velez fans which made it impossible for the team to do a lap of honour.
It was the only match that really mattered last weekend — even if Rosario Central and Gimnasia-La Plata fans would disagree since their teams were fighting for their top flight survival –- and got the magnifying glass treatment.
Media and neutral fans have been divided as to the referee’s mistakes which also included disallowing an early Huracan goal for offside which TV replays showed should have stood.
He should also have given Velez a second penalty –- their first was saved by Monzon –- when left back Carlos Arano clattered badly into Fabian Cubero and risked being sent off.
Many argue that Velez were worthy champions, playing solid football and were the team with the best defence –- 13 goals conceded in 19 matches, unbeaten at home and with only one defeat in the tournament.
Huracan have been praised as the best team, playing the football most people like to see with a passing game and 35 goals in their 19 matches, although they lost five. The consensus, win or lose, is that they are good for the Argentine game.
What the “final” certainly did was highlight numerous ills of Argentine domestic football even if it did not suffer from the worst on this occasion — fan violence.
Organisation though was poor with the large contingent of police doing nothing to control the huge number of Velez “extras” hovering close to their team’sbench in the narrow area between the pitch and the stands.
They then spilt onto the field to celebrate Moralez’s strike and the midfielder was sent off for taking off his shirt in jubilation, his second yellow card.
Cappa complained that after the goal some of the “extras” hid the match ball, causing an eight minute delay before play was resumed, and he was shown on TV insulting the perceived culprits.
So even Cappa, the neatly groomed “different” coach who learnt his trade in Spain and espouses the stylish football associated in Argentina with Cesar Luis Menotti but referred to long before him as “la nuestra” (our way), got sucked into the mire.
This after spending the two-week build-up receiving praise for the team he has built in six months and extolling the virtues of his rivals.
As for the referee, there has been no announcement of a sanction, but the head of the refereeing body, Jorge Romo, was quoted as saying: “Brazenas played badly so that’s why he didn’t take part in the draw for the promotion playoffs.”
That might be good news for Rosario Central and Gimnasia-La Plata.
PHOTO: Velez Sarsfield’s Hernan Lopez lifts the trophy after their victory against Huracan in Buenos Aires July 5, 2009. REUTERS/Santiago Pandolfi