Referee Watch: Chelsea vs. Manchester United (Champions League)

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By Matthew Campbell.

Having criticised Lee Mason in my last article and having found out that tonight’s referee Alberto Mallenco was a disciplinarian I was worried that I would be writing a similar performance rating to the one from Saturday, but I am glad to say I am not going to.

The Spanish official had a decent first half performance by anyone’s standards.  He gave a lot of fouls in that first 45 minute period but I can’t argue with too many of them, however at times his foul detection has been poor.

Twice he allowed Chelsea players to get away with late tackles on Wayne Rooney, however gave free kicks for very offences where there was very little contact.

Mallenco had a reputation going into this game of being very card happy, however that didn’t show in the first half as I counted three occasions where he could have shown yellow cards to Blues players.

Firstly one to Michael Essien for a high foot, after the ball had gone on Rooney, a challenge that caught the Man United striker on the top of the foot and left him writhing around on the floor in agony.  Secondly I felt he could have given a yellow card to Fernando Torres for simulation.

The Spaniard went down in the penalty area after a ‘challenge’ from Nemanja Vidic, however, although the Serbian defender didn’t touch the ball, he didn’t touch Torres either and the referee correctly gave the goal kick, however I believe Torres should have been carded for diving.

Then Mallenco did finally book a Chelsea player in Yuri Zhirkov after a high boot caught Javier Hernandez in the face.  Although the Chelsea players, led by captain John Terry argued that Hernandez had ducked into the challenge, Zhirkov’s foot was still ridiculously high and the Russian winger was rightly cautioned.

Manchester United, who were the better team in the first half, looked dangerous every time they attacked and they got their away goal on 24 minutes when Ryan Giggs cleverly picked out Rooney in the centre of the penalty area and the striker side footed the ball past Petr Cech to make it 1-0.

But on the stroke of half time Chelsea came within inches of equalising as Fernando Torres’s shot hit the post and came out to Frank Lampard whose shot was cleared off the line by Patrice Evra.  There was no question of the ball crossing the line, and even if the additional assistants hadn’t been there I think the Spanish referee and his assistant on the far side would have gotten the decision correct.

The second half was much of the same from the referee as he didn’t really put a foot wrong.  Showed two early yellow cards in the second half, both of which were correct and probably a bit belated as Ramires and Michael Essien both could have been booked in the first half for late tackles on Rooney.

Ramires was the first of the two, second on the night to go into the notebook for a foul on Evra.  I think it was more a totting up process than the yellow card being for that one challenge as the Brazilian midfielder had committed four or five fouls over the match.

Essien was then booked six minutes later after fouling Michael Carrick when Manchester United were on the break.  That arguably could have been Essien’s second yellow card as he should have been booked for his tackle on Rooney three minutes into the game.

With two Chelsea players being booked in quick succession it was then the turn of two United players to be cautioned in the space of six minutes and from a United point of view they were two bookings that could have been avoided.

Firstly Vidic was penalised for a foul on Florent Malouda when the Frenchman was going nowhere and then goal keeper Van der Sar was booked, harshly in my opinion for time wasting over a free kick, however it looked as though van der Sar was injured and required Vidic to take the kick, however the referee didn’t see it that way and felt the Dutch keeper was wasting time.

Then came the big talking point in the match, a potential penalty in Chelsea’s favour for a foul by Evra on Ramires.  In real time I thought that Evra had gotten the ball and that was obviously the opinion of Mallenco who waved away the appeals, however the replays made for interesting viewing.

Evra may have gotten the ball, but it was definitely after he had clattered Ramires when the Brazilian was about to have a shot at goal.  Had the penalty been given then Evra would have missed the second leg because the red card would have followed.

I can, however see why the referee didn’t give it because of the position of the referee looking in from the side it could have looked as though Evra won the ball, however the additional assistant behind the goal had a perfect, unobstructed view and should have attracted the referee to the incident and told him to award the spot kick.

Chelsea can count themselves unlucky over that incident, however they should be ashamed of the disgusting tactics of Torres who, for the second time in the match went to ground under a challenge in the penalty area.  This time the Chelsea front man was booked for simulation correctly in my opinion as it looked as though Torres kicked Valencia rather than the other way around, and had the referee booked Torres in the first half like I believe he should have then Chelsea may have finished the game with nine men.

My Rating: 7/10

Alberto Mallenco had a reputation of being a bit of a card shark and very whistle happy before this match, but he has nothing like that in what was an exciting Champions League quarter final first leg.

He had given 80 fouls, 12 yellow cards and one red in his three previous Champions League matches this season in Rome (Roma vs. Bayern Munich), Lyon (Lyon vs. Benfica) and Milan (Inter vs. Werder Bremen) and he did add to those tallies in this match.

He showed six yellow cards in total all of which were correct, except in my opinion the caution for Edwin Van der Sar for time wasting, when it appeared the United goal keeper was suffering from a recurrence of a groin problem.

Mallenco missed a couple of incidents in the first half but I felt overall he was consistent with what he determined to be a foul and what he deemed to be a bookable offence.

One criticism I did have of Mallenco, and in all honesty, have about most referees in Europe is that they give decisions a long way away from where the incident has taken place.  I counted at least three times in this match where the referee was about 30 yards away from where a foul was committed so this shows that sometimes he isn’t up with play.

Although I can’t argue with his use of the advantage rule as he played a couple fo good advantages for both sides that led to the ball being played into the penalty area.

Overall I was very impressed with the referee, that was until stoppage time when he waved away appeals for a penalty for Chelsea when Evra challenged Ramires.  It looked a difficult call in real time, but the replay showed it should have been a spot kick and a red card for Evra.

But up until this incident I thought the referee was very good and hopefully the second leg at Old Trafford will be as well refereed as this match was.

Looking Ahead

Manchester United have a home game against Fulham to contend with on Saturday a team that United have only beaten once in the last four league meetings, however if they want to win the Barclays Premier League then it’s the sort of match Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have to win.

Ironically it was this weekend’s referee, Mike Jones, who took charge of United’s last win over Fulham which was a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford last season.

Before the FA Cup quarter final between Stoke and West Ham I would have told you that Mike Jones was the most improved referee among the Premier League list, however since that frightful Sunday afternoon he has not had the best of luck.

West Ham manager Avram Grant has been given a two game touchline ban for the comments he made about Jones’ performance and since then the referee from Cheshire has struggled to get his form back on track.

Last week he took charge of Aston Villa’s visit to Goodison Park where he and his assistant Andy Garratt failed to award a goal when the ball was clearly over the line. Jones also awarded a penalty to the home side after Jean Makoun was adjudged to have fouled Phil Jagielka even though replays showed that the Everton defender had dived.

He impressed me in this fixture last season, which was his first visit to Old Trafford.  He has refereed two United home games already this season and on both occasions he put in solid performances so let’s hope he can make it three in a row.

These two teams both have good disciplinary records, well Manchester United do on the pitch, so Jones shouldn’t have a difficult afternoon in what I predict will be a comfortable United win.

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