Referee blunder casts shadow over Chelsea's 5-1 victory
New calls for goal-line technology after Atkinson apologies to Redknapp for awarding Mata goal
REFEREE Martin Atkinson has apologised to Harry Redknapp for the blunder that cost Tottenham a crucial goal in their FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea yesterday.
Atkinson ruled that the ball had crossed the Spurs' goal-line when it clearly hadn't, a decision that handed Chelsea a 2-0 advantage over the Lilywhites five minutes after the break. Though Spurs pulled a goal back seven minutes later through Gareth Bale, Chelsea ran riot in the last quarter to thrash their London rivals 5-1 and seal their place in next month's final against Liverpool.
But despite the emphatic scoreline, the main talking point to emerge from Sunday's pulsating encounter was Atkinson's decision to allow Juan Mata's goal when it was apparent the Chelsea winger hadn't managed to squeeze the ball over a pile of prostrate players in the Tottenham six-yard box. One of those players was Chelsea captain John Terry, who later admitted: "I thought it hit me and stayed out."
Terry then demanded FIFA do something about such situations. "We've been calling for goal-line technology for a very long time and let's hope that the people make the right decision," said Terry. "Thankfully today it's gone our way but during a season it goes for you and against you — today it's gone for us, we're delighted."
Less delighted was Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, who received an apology from Atkinson soon after the end of the match. "Atkinson's watched it now and says he feels worse than I do. I said, ‘I don't think so'," Redknapp told reporters. "He knows he's made a mistake and he says he'll have a bad week as well."
Though Redknapp said it was an "honest mistake" from Atkinson – who'll be one of England's refereeing representatives at the Euro 2012 championships – he still berated the official for allowing the goal, saying: "I don't see how he can give the goal — it's nowhere near over the line. It's not as if it's gone in and someone's kicked it away. There were bodies on the line and the ball couldn't possibly get over the line. The referee must have guessed, he can't have been sure."
Redknapp echoed Terry's calls for the introduction of goal-line technology, an issue over which FIFA has dragged its feet ever since England had a clear goal ruled out against Germany in the 2010 World Cup. "Goal-line technology has to come into the game," said Redknapp. "You can't carry on like this, with important decisions not being correct."
The controversy detracted somewhat from Chelsea's performance, a perfect warm-up for Wednesday's Champions League semi-final against Barcelona. Mata's goal – coming after Didier Drogba's brilliant first-half strike – was followed by three goals in the last 13 minutes for the Blues. Ramires netted on 77 minutes, then Frank Lampard lashed a free kick into the top corner of the Tottenham net before Florent Malouda scored the fifth on the stroke of full-time.
"In the case of the second goal, we were lucky," conceded Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo, before pointing out: "We didn't score two goals, we scored five. I don't know how much it would matter."