England might be missing from the Euro 2008 finals, but it was an Englishman who took centre stage in Vienna on Thursday night.
Step forward referee Howard Webb, who did a competent job ensuring order in Austria’s tussle with Poland, apart from allowing a blatantly offside goal and then awarding a decidely dodgy stoppage-time penalty!
Poland coach Leo Beenhakker was left fuming along with soccer betting punters, who had sided with the Poles, and accused Webb of trying to steal the limelight.
“Maybe he wants to show he is a big boy and has the guts to do it, I don’t know,” Beenhakker said. “I’ve never had a problem in 43 years of being in football but this is something I cannot understand.”
Roger Guerreiro’s first-half opener for Poland looked offside and looking at the replays, which Webb wss unable to do at the time, the Brazilian-born star was stood in an offside position when he tapped home.
But with no signal from his assistant Webb can be excused for that. However it was his decision to hand Austria a lifeline on 93 minutes which understandably irked Beenhakker.
Beenhakker believes Webb’s penalty decision, after Mariusz Lewandowski defended a free-kick by grabbing Sebastian Prodl’s shirt, effectively knocked Poland out of Euro 2008.
There have certainly been worse cases of penalty area jostling that have gone unpunished so far and we’re likely to witness more as the knock-out stages draw closer.
Surely if every box tussle was to result in a penalty then six or seven spot-kicks a game would be likely and football odds compilers would be pulling their hair out.
But from the other viewpoint, Webb was strong enough to say ‘enough is enough’ of the constant pushing at set-pieces and his intervention might just eliminate the illegal holding and shoving which has crept into modernÃ‚Â international football.
It will be interesting to see what stance UEFA take and whether Mr Webb and his associates are on the short-list to take charge of the final in Vienna on June 29.
Ã‚Â By Phil Tomlinson
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