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When one man toyed with fate: The night Chelsea’s European dream was destroyed

December 27, 2019

first_img3 The ball left Andres Iniesta’s foot, floated just over Petr Cech’s hand, and Stamford Bridge fell silent.Despair crashed down on Guus Hiddink as Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff celebrated wildly in front of the home support. It was meant to be Hiddink’s crowning moment during his short stay in west London, but instead became a match forgotten for the football and remembered for the outrage that flowed both during the action and after the final whistle blew.Those infamous 90 minutes in England’s capital also changed the life of the man overseeing them. Referee Tom Henning Ovrebo was the subject of death threats in the weeks and months following the match, and the fears for his safety in the immediate aftermath of the game meant he had to be escorted out of the country by police.Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s upcoming Champions League last-16 clash against Barcelona, Ovrebo has admitted he made mistakes in the May moonlight nine years ago.“It was not my best day really,” Ovrebo was quoted saying by Sky Sports. “Some days you are not at the level you should be. I can’t be proud of that performance.“There were several errors and everyone will have their opinion of those plays.“They were handball situations. I judge them on the pitch and I think it is interesting to know what I think of those actions once judged, although I understand that people think different to the decisions I made at the time.”* * *Ovrebo’s performance was a ‘disgrace’ according to Didier Drogba: ‘It’s a f*****g disgrace’ he thundered into the television cameras when the final whistle was blown, just seconds after Iniesta’s strike from the edge of the area, assisted by Lionel Messi, had booked Barcelona’s place in the 2009 Champions League final.Droba’s foul-mouth outburst to the television cameras earned him an £85,000 fine. Image courtesy of Sky SportsThey were to play Manchester United, and their place was secured in the showpiece fixture with this 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.Towards the end of April, one week before the return leg in London, Chelsea produced a spirited defensive display at the Camp Nou to leave Spain with a 0-0 draw in the first-leg of their semi-final.It gave them, while not a major advantage, a sense that Barcelona could be knocked out of Europe when they visited England.And Barca’s exit was on the cards for over 80 minutes at the Bridge.Michael Essien fired in the most unpredictable of powerful-yet-controlled volleys leaving Victor Valdes grasping at air in the ninth minute.That gave the hosts a lead which they held until second-half injury time.Before Iniesta netted the most heartbreaking goal ever scored at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea had four separate penalty appeals turned down by Ovrebo which led to Drogba’s post-game outburst.A Dani Alves foul on Florent Malouda was adjudged to have taken place outside the area rather than inside, which led to only a free-kick rather than a penalty, while Yaya Toure and Eric Abidal both avoided punishment for tackles on Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka that would have been called fouls on any other night.Furthermore, two handball incidents were not called, despite the obvious nature of Gerard Pique’s and Seydou Keita’s infringements.The latter episode happened right at the death, after Iniesta had cancelled out Essien’s goal with his own mesmeric strike from the edge of Chelsea’s area.It was Michael Ballack’s shot which struck the inside of Keita’s arm, and he chased Ovrebo as the referee retreat away from the action with the lines of his face giving nothing away; Ovrebo was the antithesis of Ballack, apathy contrasted with fury.Ballack chases Ovrebo when his call for handball is rejected. Image courtesy of Sky SportsOvrebo’s next action was to blow the final whistle; cue Drogba’s outburst, Hiddink’s half-hearted attempts to restrain him, and a black mark that would dog the rest of Ovrebo’s career.* * *Chelsea got their revenge, of course. A few years later, Ramires and Fernando Torres scored in the Camp Nou to guide the 10-man Blues to the 2012 Champions League final, and they went on to claim the famous trophy that year.The two sides meet again on Tuesday, now each other’s bete noire.But nothing will ever erase the memories of that infamous night in west London, when one man toyed with the fate of an entire football club. Andres Iniesta’s goal sent Barcelona through to the Champions League at the expense of Chelsea last_img

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