May 27, 2013

Mixed echo after Rizzoli's final performance

When Nicola Rizzoli blew the final whistle after 94 minutes of high-quality football played by triumphant Bayern München as well as unlucky Borussia Dortmund, all the tension that had pressed on the Italian referee's shoulders immediately declined. The 41 year-old architect of Mirandola furthermore admitted that he had been moved to tears as even Dortmund's fans applauded for the Italian officiating crew. Even Pierluigi Collina seemed delighted having come to their dressing room after the match. But, was really everything that rosy?


Rizzoli himself was content with the decisions he had taken, at least according to an interview he gave to an Italian newspaper that will appear tomorrow on this blog as a copy, too. 
As pointed out in the two unofficial referee observer's reports you can find on the right hand-side of this blog, there have been several game-relevant incidents and, from our point of view, the referee failed to issue at least two sending-offs. Among others, Franck Ribery, who was directly involved in both Bayern goals, should have been red-carded after a violent punch into Robert Lewandowski's face in the midst of the first half.
Without any doubt, the match seemed to be under control. Football savoured the absolute focus and surely, there has been rarely such an open-minded and tense final in recent history. But does the end justify the means? Is a match fair and well-controlled by the referee as soon as 22 players, 11 vs. 11, are combatting for the win on the pitch? Even if one or two of them qualify for being sent off? I doubt that. Yes the match would have suffered from an early red card to the Frenchman. And yes, you can superficially call the missed but actually mandatory yellow card to Dante, which would have meant his expulsion, kind of "match feeling". However neutral observers should not be interested in such thoughts. The Laws of the Game also count in a final of the most popular football league of the world. Violent conducts are red. No matter when, where and against whom the card might go. Specially Pierluigi Collina should know that best.

Rizzoli calming down Mandzukic verbally (c) ZIMBIO
Großkreutz and Ribery both deserved a caution (c) ZIMBIO
Oops: mind your positioning... (c) ZIMBIO
...or did he just want to play? ;)
A proud final team (c) Twitter AIA

Finally, a short overview on the "third half" of the match: Rizzoli's performance attracted a mixed medial echo in the aftermath of the match.

Markus Merk, former top referee, was one of many who had their say on Rizzoli's performance:
"Yellow for both would have been mandatory, red for Ribery possible.", referring to the Ribery vs. Lewandowski incident.

Two times World Cup referee Graham Poll was more critical:
"The game was a superbly entertaining encounter, one of the best finals at the new Wembley and therein lies the problem: the perspective that it is better to watch 22 players contesting a game than 11 v 10 or even 11 v 9. This leads to referees being guided to ‘keep 22 players on the pitch’, particularly in a showpiece final. [...] 
Ribery, trying to shrug off his opponent, threw his arm back into him, clearly striking Lewandowski in the face. It was as clear a red-card offence as you will see — and in full view of Rizzoli. Incredibly, the Italian referee did not even caution the Frenchman. Had it not been the final, I would expect UEFA to charge Ribery retrospectively. [...] 
We would all rather be talking about the absorbing match rather than referee errors but if a competition is going to be affected by what UEFA call ‘brutality’, as it was when Nani was dismissed at Old Trafford, then it should be done consistently — even if it affects the final.", these are the words of a referee, who himself needed three yellow cards to finally send off a Croatian player at World Cup 2006, who mostly heralds quite exclusive point of views in his column, but who - this time - hits the nail right on the head (source).

Borussia Dortmund manager Klopp reacted shortly after the game:
"I saw it in the game and I was sure you can give a second yellow card and when I saw it on television I thought you had to give it. But in the history of football there were refereeing decisions worse than this. 11 against 10 after that we are the winner? I don't know.", Klopp stated with regard to Dante's foul leading to the penalty. Words, which should close the chapter "Refereeing in CL final 2013" in a conciliatory manner.

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