Harry Redknapp revealed last night that referee Martin Atkinson admitted to him in the aftermath of Spurs' 5-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea that he had made a huge mistake in allowing Juan Mata's "ghost goal" to stand.
t came four minutes into the second half with Chelsea 1-0 up when Mata had a shot blocked by Benoît Assou-Ekotto in a goalmouth scramble. Replays showed the ball had not crossed the line; even John Terry admitted in a radio interview that he did not think the goal should have stood.
"I spoke to him," Redknapp said afterwards, "he says he feels worse than I do [for allowing Juan Mata's goal to stand]. I said: 'I don't think so.' But he says he feels bad. He knows he's made a mistake and he says he'll have a bad week as well. [But there's] nothing we can do now."
The Spurs manager said that the referee "must have" guessed the decision: "He can't have been sure. You can't look at it and think it is [a goal]. He's just made a mistake, unfortunately. He's not done it on purpose. 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, it's so quick. There were bodies on the line and the ball couldn't possibly get over the line."
The result sends Chelsea through to their fourth FA Cup final in six years. They will face Liverpool on 5 May, but a degree of rancour is quite possible, after Chelsea were forced to apologise for the behaviour of some of their supporters who disrupted the minute's silence in respect of the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
A Chelsea statement released soon after the final whistle said that the club was "extremely disappointed" in those who "embarrassed the club today by not honouring the moment's silence before kick-off."
The Chelsea caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo echoed those sentiments. "We are extremely disappointed," he said, "that a minority, or just a few, decided to speak or sing during the minute's silence and not respect it. We are disappointed."
Regarding Mata's goal, Di Matteo admitted that his team had been fortunate, but said that their win owed to more than luck. "In this case we were on the lucky side," he said, "but many times before we've had decisions go against us. But we didn't score two goals. We scored five. I don't know how much it would matter."
The Spurs captain Ledley King said: "I didn't think it had crossed the line. I find it hard to believe that the referee could have seen it from where he was."
Redknapp demanded that video technology be brought in. "Goal-line technology has to come into the game," he said. "You can't keep having situations like that. You can't carry on like this, with important decisions not being correct."
The Football Association is at the forefront of efforts to introduce technology into the game at the elite level. The latest planning meeting for Fifa's "Test Phase 2" was held late last week, and the next phase of tests will begin this month. The final decision will be made by the International Fooball Association Board in a meeting in Kiev on 2 July.
Di Matteo was delighted with his players' performance ahead of hosting Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final first leg on Wednesday. "I think our team played very well," he said. "It was a great performance. It's a boost of confidence for us.
"It's good to keep this positive momentum going for us. We go into the game with confidence. It'll be a different kind of game to tonight, over two legs, but it's good. Winning brings that positivity within the team. It makes everybody feel better."
Tottenham, meanwhile, have only fourth place to focus on now with five league games left. Redknapp said his players had to show character to qualify for next year's Champions League. "I've got to find a team among that group who'll have the nerve, the will-power and the desire to get that fourth spot," he said.
"We have to go to QPR next week for a tough game and show we can bounce back from today. It's important. It's a test of character now. They have to show some character."