Chelsea back Drogba as UEFA comes under pressure
Chelsea on Thursday rallied behind Didier Drogba as the striker came under fire for his furious confrontation with a referee in the wake of the club's Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona.sports Updated: May 07, 2009 18:23 IST
Chelsea on Thursday rallied behind Didier Drogba as the striker came under fire for his furious confrontation with a referee in the wake of the club's Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona.
Captain John Terry and manager Guus Hiddink both voiced their support for the Ivory Coast international but that will not help him avoid potentially severe sanctions from UEFA in the aftermath of a match which can only have tarnished the image of football.
Referee Tom Henning Ovrebo had to be smuggled out of Britain on Thursday by police who feared for his safety in the wake of the previous night's semi-final second leg.
Ovrebo turned down four strong penalty appeals by Chelsea, who lost on the away goals rule after Andres Iniesta scored in the 93rd-minute of the second leg to level the scores at 1-1 on the night and on aggregate.
At the end of the game, the Norwegian official was confronted by a furious Drogba and had to be escorted down the tunnel by a group of Chelsea stewards who had difficulty restraining the striker.
Fearing reprisals from furious fans, police changed Ovrebo's hotel before organising his exit from the country, according to former international referee Graham Poll.
Poll revealed: "This morning he's being smuggled out of our country under police escort - this is a referee of a football match. That is a disgrace.
"When he booked in a hotel they had to change the hotel he was staying at because of the fear that maybe fans would find him."
Ovrebo's situation has worrying echoes of the hounding of Swedish referee Anders Frisk, who retired from the game in 2005 after receiving death threats in the wake of another ill-tempered meeting between Chelsea and Barcelona.
Drogba's extremely intimidating behaviour towards Ovrebo was aggravated by the fact that he went on to scream obscenities into a television camera, forcing some broadcasters who were carrying the match live to apologise to viewers.
"Are you watching this? It is a disgrace. It is a fucking disgrace," Drogba shouted.
Hiddink, who attempted to restrain Drogba, acknowledged that the striker's conduct was close to the limit of what is acceptable but said he understood his frustration over what he described as the worst refereeing performance he had seen in his long career.
""People say he should be in control. The moment a player starts hitting then he is going beyond where he should go," Hiddink said.
"I can understand his emotion and his behaviour after the game. I will protect that."
Hiddink added: "There is an overall feeling of being robbed, of there having been an injustice. That's why they were so hot and angry.
"Of course the players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes and referees can make mistakes, that's why we talk about giving the benefit of the doubt.
"But if you have seen three or four situations waved away, then it's the worst I have seen."
Terry appeared to suggest that Ovrebo's handling of the match was influenced by a perceived desire by UEFA to avoid another all-English final.
"The word conspiracy is maybe the wrong one. It's difficult when players are so high on emotion after a game. People are saying we should not have reacted the way we did but the fact is that six decisions went against us. For the ref not to give one of them is unusual."
Terry added: "I'm fully behind Didier. The fact is the referee is the one who should face the consequences."
UEFA will wait until they see Ovrebo's match report before deciding what action to take.
The governing body's General Secretary, David Taylor, dismissed any suggestion that Chelsea's exit reflected the governing body's desire to avoid another all-English final.
Ovrebo undeniably made a string of errors but Barcelona were also victims of his poor decision-making with Eric Abidal sent off 25 minutes from the end for tripping Nicolas Anelka, who actually tripped himself up.
Taylor, who was at the match at Stamford Bridge, said he was angered by the implication that UEFA would try to influence the outcome of a match.
"If anything it's a media conspiracy against UEFA," he said. "It does make me angry. It really annoys me because it's a load of rubbish."
First Published: May 07, 2009 18:22 IST