Champions League

'Chelsea robbed of final spot'

2009-05-07 07:20
Angry Chelsea's Didier Drogba (AP)

London - There was no way of restraining Didier Drogba's anger as Chelsea was denied a spot in the Champions League final in stoppage time by Barcelona on Wednesday.

Four security officials and interim manager Guus Hiddink struggled to prevent the finger-jabbing striker from venting his fury at the referee after Andres Iniesta's 93rd-minute equaliser sent the Spanish club through on away goals. A 1-1 draw followed a scoreless first leg.

"Disgrace," he shouted on the Stamford Bridge pitch while swearing at the television cameras.

For Drogba, the semi-final should have been over by halftime - and like Hiddink and captain John Terry, he put the blame entirely on Norwegian official Tom Henning Ovrebo.

The first penalty appeal came when Florent Malouda was brought down by Daniel Alves in the 24th minute a meter inside the area, but it was deemed to be on the edge. The Ivory Coast international was denied a strong claim two minutes later after being dragged back by Eric Abidal, who would later be sent off, and again in the 57th after being hauled down by Yaya Toure.

Even after Iniesta canceled out Michael Essien's ninth-minute volley and with the clock ticking, the Blues thought Samuel Eto'o had given them a chance to claim a winner from the penalty spot when he appeared to handle.

"There is an overall feeling of being robbed, injustice," Hiddink said. "That's why the players were so hot and angry and I could understand the emotion of them.

"If you have seen three or four situations waved away then it's the worst I have seen (from a referee). At this moment I have to think if I have seen worse."

Terry issued a staunch defense of Drogba's abuse of the referee.

"I'm fully behind Didier, the way he reacted," Terry said. "You can see the passion he played with in the game and afterwards. But the fact is the referee is the one who should face the consequences, not Didier and not us by not going through.

"Players come into these games hoping and praying they don't make mistakes but referees are the same - only they get away with it."

Hiddink came to the post-match press conference with meticulous notes of the penalties that never were and clutching a DVD of a match he will struggle to watch again when his four-month tenure ends after the May 30 FA Cup final against Everton.

"It's not just one decision in doubt but it's several not made decisions," Hiddink said. "In big games like this you need top-notch referees who have had big experience in the leagues of Spain, Italy, England and Germany."

For Terry the defeat was even more painful because he was so close to being given a chance to avenge last season's loss to Manchester United in the final and banish memories of his miss in Moscow's penalty shootout. Instead, Barcelona will face United on May 27 in Rome.

"We did exactly what we needed to do," Terry said. "Not one player made one mistake in the two legs. The referee has made big errors and now we're out. It's a big game with big players and he simply wasn't good enough.

"Why did we get a referee who has officiated in 10 games in the Champions League in his career? To be given the Champions League semi-final, that's not good enough."

Even Barcelona defender Gerard Pique acknowledged that the ball struck his hand when under pressure from Nicolas Anelka in the closing minutes.

"To be fair the ball touched my hand but I didn't want to touch it," said Pique, who will face his former United teammates in the final. "The ref can decide what he wants and he decided not to say it was a penalty and you have to respect the decisions. Sometimes the decision is wrong but I am just happy to qualify for the final. The other things we cannot control."

It wasn't only Chelsea which could leave the ground with a grievance toward the referee. Abidal was sent off in the 66th for a challenge on Anelka in the penalty area despite appearing to make minimal contact with the French striker. That red card rules the defender out of the final.

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