Scandal of Stamford Bridge
2008-09 Champions League semi-final – second leg (Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona); There are not many Barcelona fans who will forget 6 May 2009. Despite perhaps being inferior to one of the strongest Chelsea sides in history, a late equaliser by Andrés Iniesta meant Barcelona would go on to win Champions League and consequently the famous sextuple and being regarded as one of the best club teams in history of football, awing the football fans around the world with their beautiful brand of play. But there were a number of strong penalty shouts that were denied by the infamous Norwegian referee Tom Øvrebø in the second leg. The entire Chelsea squad blasted the referee with players such as Lampard, Ballack and Drogba (who called the UEFA officiating a f**king disgrace) used strong words towards the referee. Chelsea's temporary manager Guus Hiddink also questioned the quantity of referee's judgements that went against Chelsea and felt the decisions were “hard to digest”.
Guus Hiddink's men had five penalty claims. These penalty shouts ranged from Éric Abidal’s slight pull of Didier Drogba's shirt, the episode involving Drogba and Yaya Touré wrestling for the ball, Dani Alves hauling down Florent Malouda which might have happened inside the box but a free kick was awarded and handball appeals when Gerard Piqué and Samuel Eto'o blocked Chelsea's attempts at goal with their arms, of which two of them were very strong claims (both handballs). Not many neutral football fans will disagree that Barcelona deserved to have at least a couple of those penalties against them.
Conclusion: This is a tough decision but most agree that Barcelona got more decisions wrong in favour of them than against.
Scandal of Camp Nou I
2009-10 Champions League semi-final – second leg (Barcelona 1-0 Internazionale); An infamous and controversial decision during this match was the dismissal of Thiago Motta with a straight red card. The former Barcelona midfielder, at the time of incident was already booked with a yellow card in the tenth minute. There certainly was contact, but there is no doubt that Busquets made the most of the situation. However, a second yellow was inevitable for the Brazilian born player hence it would not have mattered whether he received a second yellow or a straight red from the referee.
Now, let’s go back a week earlier in San Siro, where Diego Milito’s goal gave Internazionale a 3-1 lead. Replays show that Argentine striker was in offside position where the ball was played to him
Not to mention a late goal by Bojan Krkić was disallowed and called handball Yaya Touré while the Ivorian’s hand was closed on his chest. This goal would have taken Barcelona to final.
There were also a few penalty shouts in favour of Barcelona which were all denied, namely Sneijder’s tackle on Dani Alves in the first leg as well as Muntari’s pull on Alves the edge of 18 yard box during the second leg.
Conclusion: Despite many claims, it was Inter who were favoured by referee’s mistakes.
Scandal of Camp Nou II:
Champions League 2010-11 Round of 16 - second leg (Barcelona 3 –1 Arsenal); Perhaps one of the most crucial moments of this match was Van Persie being sent off for time wasting after being called offside 10 minutes into the second half. There were a couple of seconds between the referee blowing his whistle and Van Persie shooting, which is difficult for any player to react to, especially considering the noise levels in Camp Nou. The red card (second yellow card) therefore was unjustified.
Going back to Emirates however, Barcelona were denied a goal scored by Messi as he was onside when Pedro struck the ball. It certainly was a tough decision for the linesman to call offside but it is safe to say that it was the wrong one.
Two strong penalty shouts in favour of Barcelona were denied in Emirates too (Djourou’s handball, a couple of half challenges by Koscielny, not to mention Arshavin could have been penalised for a handball inside the 18 yard box in the end)
Contrary to popular belief and Wenger’s post-match comments, Arsenal were favoured by the referee’s wrong decisions over two legs.
Scandal of Bernabéu:
Champions League 2010-11 semi-final – first leg (Real Madrid 0 – 2 Barcelona); From Chelsea to Inter to Madrid, it is no secret that Mourinho’s teams tend to get a player sent off against Barcelona on a frequent basis. In this match, Pepe did the honours by receiving a straight red card for a challenge on Dani Alves. Many fans believe since there was no physical contact between the players and therefore no punishment was necessary and I believe they are absolutely right in the former part of the argument but absolutely wrong in the latter. You don't necessarily have to shoot someone in order to be found guilty. If you point a gun at somebody, you are accused of shooting. Talking football - and these are rules set by FIFA, any dangerous act that can cause injury to a player is punished, whether it injures the player or not. Many argue that if Dani Alves hadn't moved his leg away from the incoming challenge, his shinbone would have been shattered to pieces. A yellow card was without a doubt inevitable for the Brazilian-born Portuguese who is famous for overly-aggressive behaviour. A red, debatable.
Scandal of Camp Nou III
Champions League 2011-12 quarter-final – second leg (Barcelona 3 – 1 AC Milan); The latest calls for scandal come from two debatable penalty calls in favour of Barcelona in this match. The first penalty call was from a tackle on Messi, who was in an offside position while the ball was played by Xavi (albeit the pass was not directed to the Argentine). The situation is a 50-50, as the referee’s interpretation could be either a deflection (no penalty) or a miss-control (penalty) from Antonini.
The second debatable penalty call was when Nesta was caught pushing Busquets to the ground before a corner kick was taken. Although pulling and pushing happens regularly during indirect freekicks around the world, the rules clearly say any act of such sort would be a foul in the penalty area and therefore a penalty. In this case however, most argue that since the ball was not being played (even though the referee had given Xavi the nod to take the corner), a foul could not be called. On an off-topic note, shirt pulling, pushing and tugging during indirect free kicks must be stopped and consistency must be shown in refereeing decisions regarding these cases.
Going back a week earlier though, a clear penalty on Alexis Sánchez was denied in the first leg as well as clever push and pull by Nesta on Dani Alves in the 18 yard box during the second leg.
Conclusion: Refereeing mistakes were even for both teams over two legs, if not favouring AC Milan a little more overall.
Final Conclusion: Referees, just like players are not perfect. There are decisions in every match that unfortunately go wrong and can go in favour or against any team. Recently there has been a lot of focus on a number of critical refereeing mistakes which have gone in favour of Barcelona but many seem to have ignored a large number of decisions that go against them. Recent evidence however shows that in general, decisions have gone for and against Barcelona at an even rate.