Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: A day that showcased the ugly side of beautiful game

I should have left Wembley Stadium on Sunday night feeling exhilarated by the excitement generated during the second of the weekend’s FA Cup semi-finals. Instead I felt rather depressed by much of what I’d seen and heard.

The downbeat mood began as, pre-match, I settled into a seat in the media room to watch the vital league game at Old Trafford. Within 10 minutes there was a nasty taste in my mouth.

Now I really wish Manchester United wasn’t the club involved. Some feel, with no justification whatsoever, that I have an agenda against the champions.

I don’t. I respect the manager, but I don’t like him. That dislike though doesn’t extend to the club. Unfortunately, Ashley Young plays for them and I have issues with him.

Whatever Sir Alex Ferguson says, that wasn’t a penalty. Young put his foot against Aston Villa defender’s Ciaran Clark’s leg and then, in outrageous fashion, threw himself to the ground. It was as good a ‘dive’ as his one against QPR’s Shaun Derry a week earlier. How a referee like Mark Halsey ‘bought it’ I cannot begin to understand

I promise you this: if the disgraceful Young does anything similar in an England shirt in Ukraine this summer and I’m commentating, I’ll hang him out to dry. I don’t care if ‘it’s in the national interest.’

So to the game at Wembley: is there no limit to the low-life attitudes displayed by some football fans?

Yes, it was a minority of Chelsea ‘supporters’ that disrupted the minute’s silence to mark the anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy — cut short by chants of “murderers” — but it was too big a minority to go unnoticed.

Well done Chelsea for issuing an immediate apology and expressing their embarrassment but there’s bound to be a nasty undercurrent on Cup final day.

Chelsea deserve their place against Liverpool and they can point to that emphatic score line, but nothing can excuse the appaling decision of Martin Atkinson to award Mata’s ‘goal’ at a critical stage of the game.

Atkinson is, it seems, considered alongside Howard Webb as the top two referees in the country. That’s probably correct but, dear help us, it’s a sad indictment of the standard of refereeing generally if they’re thought to be the best.

Goal-line technology would, of course, have made the correct decision for Atkinson, but for goodness sake, just looking at what happened should have been enough for him to decide to play on.

It wasn’t even in doubt and John Terry made the most apposite comment by saying even he “didn’t think it was a goal.”

An apology to Spurs? That’s not enough in my view. Atkinson should be made to suffer the indignity of sitting out a few of the big games that have tended to go his way of late. Nothing less.

So, on Sunday, we had a player who blagged a dubious penalty, supporters who should be ashamed of themselves and exposed by those that know who they are and a referee who can’t make a simple call correctly. No wonder I was depressed.

Still, at least I’ll get to see the best club side in the world tomorrow night: Barcelona.

Belfast Telegraph

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