Sunday, March 24, 2019

Grant turns his fire on referee Bennett

Chelsea manager Avram Grant laid himself open to disciplinary action by the Football Association after calling into question referee Steve Bennett's integrity.

Chelsea and eventual English title-winners Manchester United, their opponents in next week's Champions League final in Moscow, were level on points heading into last Sunday's final day of the season.

Bennett was the man in the middle at the JJB Stadium where United sealed a 10th Premier League title under Sir Alex Ferguson with a 2-0 win over Wigan thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs.

The official though was criticised for failing to award Wigan a penalty and then not sending off United midfielder Paul Scholes for a second bookable offence following a foul on Wilson Palacios.

Chelsea could only manage a 1-1 draw against Bolton but that result would have been good enough to give them the title had United lost.

Although Grant continued to congratulate United on their achievement, the Israeli expressed his relief that no English referee would be in charge of the Champions League final.

“I can say that after the game we won against Manchester United to get level on points, we knew that they had to play West Ham at home and Wigan away and that it was not in our hands,” Grant said Wednesday.

“I told you that I believed in the tradition of the fair English game. I will not say anything against it. But what happened is what I expected.

“In England there are very good referees, but there are some – a few that you can influence, like you saw.

“I think in our game against Manchester United at Old Trafford, the referee (Mike Dean) influenced the result for sure. We know that.

“I think the red card for Mikel John Obi in that game should not have been a red card, I think that Paul Scholes should have had a red card on Sunday and Wigan a penalty also. But it is finished. I congratulate Manchester United.”

When asked if he was pleased no English official would be in charge in Moscow, Grant replied: “I can say it like this, 'Yes'.”

Despite leading Chelsea to the first Champions League final in the London club's history and taking the title race all the way to the last day of the season, the 52-year-old Grant still finds his position called into question.

“I find it strange (the debate over his future) because I have a contract for four years, even though it is a contract between friends (Grant and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich), we don't involve friendship in our business.

“It is a contract as a manager,” Grant added. “I have a contract for four years, I don't think they need to come to me every two weeks and say that I can continue, I can continue, I can continue, etc.

“If I had a contract for one year then it would be okay. It doesn't bother me. It happens in football, sometimes the coach doesn't like the team, sometimes the team doesn't like the coach. Maybe they should tell me every two weeks that I should continue.”

Looking ahead to next week's match, Grant added: “I am very happy to be in the final. When you come to a club and it is the first time in their history, I am even more happy.

“But if I win 10 titles in 10 years I will always feel I have something to prove. The minute you don't think you have anything to prove you have a problem.”

Meanwhile Grant does not expect Ferguson to come up with any tactical shocks in Russia. “I don't think Alex Ferguson will surprise me with anything. I don't think I will surprise him.”

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