Controversial Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo has admitted that his poor officiating during the 2009 Champions League semifinal between Chelsea and Barcelona cost the Premier League outfit a second consecutive final appearance against Manchester United.
Ovrebo’s clear confession should go a long way in settling the on-going debate regarding the significance of his role in Barca’s progression.
Barcelona right-back Dani Alves showed no sympathy towards the Blues yesterday, insisting that they have been using Ovrebo’s decisions as an excuse to mask their inability to match the Catalan side’s offense.
Ashley Cole responded to such criticism this morning by asserting that the Blues were at their attacking best on that ill-tempered night at Stamford Bridge nearly three years ago and Barca were lucky to get away with some generous refereeing.
While Ovrebo has not apologized for his actions, he has offered his sympathy to Chelsea by admitting that his refusal to consider two legitimate penalty appeals from the West Londoners ended up keeping Barca in the tie long enough for Andres Iniesta to strike late.
“Everyone who knows the laws of the game knows I should have done things differently, but that’s the life of a referee. In a strange way, I was actually satisfied with the way we all managed to keep calm in a tense situation,” Ovrebo told reporters about the dramatic experience of refereeing that match.
The 45-year old added: “On the pitch, I did my best. I shouldn’t have to apologise as mistakes are part of the game. It was a very challenging match and with the angry scenes after the final whistle it became less enjoyable.
“Some players got too emotional and behaved badly, but no one got killed. It’s important to put it into perspective.”
Didier Drogba was one such player whose emotions got the better of him and led to a five-game UEFA ban. However, Drogba has since cooled his perspective about that night and recently emphasized that he will not treat this evening’s visit of Barca as a grudge match.
Ovrebo has praised Drogba’s ability to come to terms with the events of 2009 and believes that the player’s sportsmanship has improved significantly over the years.
“It helped me as a referee … if I can cope with Drogba screaming at me, I can cope with anything – although he’s a nice guy, really,” the official concluded.