With their typical class, Chelsea players and staff asserted their belief, following their 1-1 agg defeat to Barcelona, that UEFA conspired against them to prevent an all-English final in the Champions League.
Players, such as Didier Drogba, displayed their sentiment by all but physically assaulting the referee as he left the pitch. Manager Guus Hiddink took a more measured tone in the subsequent press conference, but offered much the same sentiment.
“Conspiracy is a very tough word and you have to prove it,” Hiddink said. “I don’t want to go with that tough word. It was said in the build-up that it would be nice to have a repetition of last year’s final, but I can only say what I see.
“I cannot say if Uefa would not like another all-English final. What I’m sure about that, in big games like this, you need top-notch referees. Players make many mistakes, coaches makes mistakes and referees can make mistakes. But if you have seen three or four situations waved away, then it’s the worst I have seen. At this moment I’d have to think a lot if I have seen worse.”
It may have been better for UEFA business had Barcelona won, but that alone does not justify a conspiracy claim. If UEFA had conspired to fix this match, they did perhaps the worst job in the history of conspiracy.
UEFA so pressured the referee for a Barca victory at the Camp Nou that he ignored a blatant Chelsea penalty committed against Thierry Henry, booked Carles Puyol rashly causing him to miss the second and leg and sent off neither Michael Ballack nor Alex when he easily could have.
The anti-English junta flexed it’s influencing muscle even further in the second leg when Eric Abidal received a red card for being in the vicinity when Nicolas Anelka tripped over his own feet, forcing Barcelona to play with ten. Claims that UEFA was fixing the match for Chelsea are absurd.
Moreover, most of the Chelsea penalty claims in the second leg were specious.
For Alves’ foul on Malouda, the foul began outside the area and was only given at all because Malouda hurled himself to the ground against physics. Abidal’s miniscule touch on Drogba was followed by a blatant, delayed dive. Toure’s foul on Drogba, if he committed one, was outside the box. He tackled fairly in the box.
Pique’s handball, perhaps, was a penalty. But, the call was a mistake and hardly conspiracy. The referee had a shocker, but both teams had to live with him, not merely Chelsea.
Chelsea played to score one goal over two legs. They deployed 11 men in Barcelona purely to kick and stifle the opposition, forgoing an away goal. The played defensively once they went 1-0 up at Stamford Bridge, pulling off Drogba for defense, despite facing ten men.
Scoring goals and preventing the other team from scoring, not referees, decides football matches. Chelsea’s negative tactics left defeat plausible. Andres Iniesta snatched an opportunity. Conspiracy did not fell Chelsea. It was karma.