Saturday’s referees reviewed
We were finally at the crunch stage – two sides would go home, two would head to the quarters. Somehow the group was turned on its head with the hosts and group favourites going out and on a night of drama, the referees were certainly part of the action.
Yellow cards: Karagounis, Gekas (Greece) Aniukov, Zhirkov, Dzagoev, Pogrebniak (Russia)
Red cards: 0
Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)
Before tonight, Greece’s last European Championship win came in…2004. When they surprised favourites Portugal to win the thing. Tonight they were on their typically best form as underdogs, dumping out Dick Advocaat’s side with a captain’s goal from Giorgos Karagounis.
But that doesn’t begin to tell the story. After a back and forth first “act” of the match, Russia felt they should have had a penalty when the Greek skipper appeared to pull Roman Shirokov down in the area.
Replays showed that while Eriksson should have blown for a foul, the initial contact began outside the area so a free-kick should have resulted. However Shirokov’s “glasses gestures” to the lineman were unacceptable and technically could count as a bookable offence.
After the break, it was Karagounis appealing for a spot-kick. This time however, Eriksson made an even bigger error. Not only did he fail to spot the trip by Sergei Ignashevitch but he booked the Greek for diving.
Not only was this a bad call in the context of the match but it means Karagounis is suspended for the next match.
Minutes later Yuri Zhirkov did go into the book as he dragged down Dimitris Salpingidis as he ran towards goal and this time the official was correct. As he was for Alan Dzagoev’s reckless challenge slightly afterwards on Georgios Tzavellas.
Zhirkov himself was bodychecked on the edge of the area by Salpingidis with 17 minutes remaining but Eriksson didn’t whistle which reflected his below average foul detection.
Eriksson did have to deal with two sets of players who were difficult to control and had no fear in going in strong but he perhaps tried to match this by being over zealous himself whereas a calmer approach may (I repeat, may) have worked.
However he just about managed to deal with a standard multi-player skirmish involving a crowd of players after 86 minutes, perhaps helped by the fact Russia were in no mood to have play slowed down.
In stoppage time Pavel Pogrebnyak was cautioned for deliberate handball when he brought down a through ball using him arms. While his intention does look 100%, his body position in sticking out both arms as the ball comes towards him does him no favours so we will Eriksson the benefit of the doubt.
Jose Holebas got the final yellow of the game with seconds remaining, presumably for time wasting but by then it was too late for Russia and Eriksson ended the match.
This was a tricky contest to oversee, no doubt. And despite some costly errors, Eriksson just about came through it okay. It’s questionable whether we’ll see him brought back for the final stages (though with increased probability now Sweden are out) but he at least proved in effectively a knock-out game that he could handle the pressure and madness around him.
Ref’s rating: 6/10
Czech Republic 1-0 Poland
Yellow cards: Limbersky, Plasil, Pekhart (Czech Republic) Murawski, Polanski, Wasilewski, Blaszczykowski, Perquis (Poland)
Red cards: 0
Referee: Craig Thomson (Scotland)
So in the teeming rain and in a rather drab way, the first of the host nations goes home. Or rather, stays home.
In match that seemed to collapse into stodginess in the second half, Thomson blew for a massive total of 42 fouls overall.
In a game of figuratively two halves, an open and free flowing first 45 gave way to stop-start second-half and Thomson did not help matters.
He seemed to be constantly revising his ideas of what merited a booking and lost his way in the second half with player disputes and frustration growing.
With thunder and lightning hanging in the air, making some anticipate another suspension as happened between France and Ukraine, the weather just about managed to restrain itself.
With 11 minutes on the clock, David Limbersky got the game’s first booking when he got little of the ball in the challenge against Polish captain Jakub Blaszczykowski.
The card-count was evened up ten minutes later when Rafal Murawski brought down the goalless Milan Baros and it was probably justified.
Thomson’s assistants had to be on the ball metaphorically when they flagged Theodor “Don’t Call Me Haile” Gebre Selassie offside midway through the half correctly.
However clearly after the break, contributed slightly by the fact that now both teams knew they needed to win with Greece leading the other game, the match became a lot more bad-tempered.
First Eugen Polanski went in with a ridiculous challenge on Vaclav Pilar which was the definition of a yellow card and he duly received one from the Scottish official. The Poland player was subsituted soon after to avoid the risk of a second booking.
Limbersky tried to carve open the host’s defence on the hour mark but was fouled badly by Marcin Wasilewski just outside the penalty box and was rightly cautioned.
But then Thomson decided to zip away yellow card. Dariusz Dudka escaped punishment for an elbow on at least one Czech player. With the shipload of free-kicks the Poles were given away, a lot of their players should have been booked.
Things boiled with a few minutes remaining when Jaroslav Plasil decided to wander round the pitch in a rather sluggish manner when being substituted off.
The Poles took an obvious dislike to this and decided – rather stupidly as it delayed the game further – to get involved and try to “help” Plasil off the field.
In the resulting melee, Thomson booked both Plasil and Blaszczykowski but then failed to book other Polish players who had a physical reaction to Czech time-wasting.
Yes, time-wasting is a bookable offence but that does not give opposition players carte-blanche to hurry the dawdlers anyway they see fit.
Damien Perquis directed his pent-up fury at Jan Rezek as he broke in stoppage time from a Polish corner and joined his team-mates in Thomson’s book.
When Wasilewski shoved over Tomas Pekhart with seconds remaining (the Czech player had purposefully trapped the ball under his foot to prevent play restarting), Thomson should have given the Polish defender his marching orders but simply booked Pekhart instead.
And so ended a rather choatic group – Thomson did not cover himself in glory as the match drifted away from him as it did for the losers tonight, Russia and Poland.
Ref’s rating: 5/10
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