OPINION: The Øvrebø ConnundrumBy: Sam | May 8th, 2009
One day cooler heads will view the dire events of the Champions League Semifinal 2nd Leg — the questions about the decisions — and see it as a Chelsea implosion. That is, the self-destruction of a team that’s just not good enough. A team which is simply unable — in Mourinho’s words — to “be champions”.
For UEFA Ref, Tom Øvrebø, his performance on the night was John-Arne-Riise-esque: Norwegian & vaquely one-sided. Mr Ø, indeed, had a poor match but it was not that bad under the difficult circumstances.
On account of the beauty of Barça’s footballing, a favoritism for them was installed in the Zeitgeist. That feeling was is amplified by the ugliness of Chelsea’s footballing in general and by the negative approach Chelsea took last week to the semifinal 1st Leg at Camp Nou in particular.
Mr Ø probably had this very intuition clanking about his subconscious (Barça = Beautiful) and was loath to give Chelsea a significant decision unless clearly, visibly earned. Refs, after all, are people.
I felt the worst decisions on the evening were the Pique handball, which was clearly a loss of an earned-advantage by Chelsea (despite being ball-to-hand) — a deserved penalty for Chelsea to take, if seen. The other was the sending-off of Barça’s Abidal which, in my opinion, was pure simulation by Anelka — a frame-job. If the rest are just gray calls, these two mistakes largely offset as well. However, in the final calculus an unwarranted dismissal for Barça is the heavier burden to carry. It is Barça who should have been howling like a petulant child who has missed his dose of Ritalin, rather than Chelsea.
When we saw Ballack’s & Drogba’s anger spill over on the telly, you can be sure this was their own anger at themselves for not taking earlier and obvious chances. Champions win football matches through goals, and do not passively await decisions on points.
The important point I haven’t seen made — which favors Mr Øbrevø — is that by diving all over Christendom (and Asia too), Drogba & Anelka make a technically difficult job by the Referee EVEN MORE DIFFICULT. These players — and Drogba in particular — cannot be trusted NOT to simulate, so a ref’s bias to reward them sparingly is assured & reinforced.
Which of a thousand falli fatti is CLEAR, I ask you? The disadvantage is self-imposed in the arrogant habit of begging-the-decision.
The weaker parts of Drogba’s character have boomeranged upon him (as they do, and should, for us all) and upon the Chelsea Football Club. Consequently, I am glad to see this truth acknowledged in the Club’s murmuring without hesitation about Drogba’s transition out, although I wonder if their firm price doesn’t reflect a lack of sincerity. Sort of takes QPR & Sheffield Wednesday out of the running. It’s good & necessary for Chelsea to cut right to the chase, remove the cancer and move on to next year. Ballack should go too, but only because his footballing contributions are so conspicuously prosaic. Let’s be clear that Ballack is not a simulator. Drogba & Anelka — in the mood — get goals, but the net effect of having these two head-cases is more than a club of Chelsea’s ambitions can tolerate.
Roll the tape. I feel Lampard was disgusted by his colleagues’ performances and believe he will agree that all disadvantage & misfortune Chelsea experienced on the day was self-inflicted.