Thursday, May 18, 2006


Andy Gray was apoplectic about the pivotal moment in last night's Champions League final. Jens Lehmann's sending off, he said, ruined the game as a spectacle (though not, somewhat perplexingly, 'as a contest'). Richard Keys reinforced this by pointing out that people had spent a lot of money to watch the final (not least, one assumes, SKY themselves).

If football matches are simple 'spectacles' offering cast iron value for money why not make the goals bigger to guarantee goals. Or you could have a ball for each player - after all, who wants to see lumbering defenders hoof the ball into the stand when you've paid good money to see Ronaldinho's exquisite talents? Hell, why not get them to play the game behind closed doors then cut the best bits together; like a Nike advert.

If you didn't see the key moment; Barcelona's passing cut Arsenal to shreds, Samual Eto'o broke through, Lehmann came out and grabbed his ankle dragging him to the ground. The ball squirmed to Guily who slid it home. The referee chose to send Lehmann off and not award the goal because he'd already blown up for a foul. Technically there wasn't much wrong with the decision. The foul was clear and cynical, preventing a clear goal scoring chance. Once the offence was committed and the game was stopped. If anything, the referee was wrong not to send off Lehmann AND play the advantage therefore awarding the goal. In a sense Arsenal got away with it lightly.

Not in the eyes of Gray who managed to lose all sense and objectivity. When Eto'o slipped in to score the equaliser. Gray was adamant he was offside, firstly he wasn't, and secondly surely on borderline decisions like that you give the striker the benefit of the doubt... after all, you don't want to ruin the spectacle do you?


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