We had two heart attack games today, two scrapped victories, two goals and about two thousand fouls. The fact that only a handful of them were awarded is only due to the competence of the referees in charge of these electric derbies. I cannot say much about Mr. Halsey because I only saw him on a blurry screen; however I can vouch for Mr. Wiley who kept a game of such magnitude under control.
The London derby had nine yellow cards, could have had more and perhaps should have, but one cannot hold a grudge against Alan Wiley or either of his two assistants. I counted five wrongly given fouls/ fouls not given three of which were in favour of the home team. There were other instances however where Mr. Wiley perhaps should have produced a yellow card when he did not or issue a red card when he did.
Starting chronologically, his first mistake came after Terry’s horrendous tackle on Fabregas — in the 30th minute. The young Spaniard, being hot headed, responded and tried to confront Terry. A fight nearly broke out with Adebayor administering a punch while pretending to try and drag one of his players away. No many could have seen that clearly and maybe the Togo striker was lucky to have barely touched the Chelsea man, but at the end of the scramble Lampard and Terry were booked. This was wrong. Fabregas, who tried to retaliate, was not talked to and Lampard was booked for protests. Maybe the Arsenal midfielder could have been given a warning as well as Lampard rather than punish one and excuse the other.
His next two lapses in judgement were minor. Joe Cole was — yet again (remember Man Utd?) — excused for a tackle from behind, while Clichy was not booked for what looked to be a get-the-man-not-the-ball challenge. Joe Cole was the booked for fouling Eboube and injuring the Arsenal winger (a bit ironic that it was Eboube who injured Terry in the first half and was booked for it) a few minutes later.
Late in the game the assistant referee on the far side made a brilliant call in spotting van Persie about an inch offside. This call was followed by the most controversial call of the game: a foul on Ben Haim by Adebayor. At first the challenge did not look faulty as Adebayor just barely made contact with the Chelsea defender, but looking at the replays it became more and more obvious that Ben Haim was impeded. Had the foul not been given, Arsenal would have been two goals up with a few minutes to go. I think this was a correct call.
The next two incidents were major, however. Mikel was wrongly awarded a free kick about 25 yards out and Shevchenko came very, very close to putting the ball under the bar and out of Almunia’s reach in the fourth minute of injury time from that free kick. About a minute later Fabregas missed Arsenal’s fifth one on one chance and made a horror tackle on Ashley Cole. “Red card” shouts came even from the most devout Arsenal supporters. Surely Fabregas was to be sent off and face a disciplinary committee for a tackle with one intention: break Ashley Cole’s leg, but instead he was booked. It did not matter anyway in the context of the game as it was the last action of the day but in the long run maybe Arsenal could have paid for the idiocy of their superstar. Ashley Cole was al right in the end and nearly managed to punch Fabregas in the face.
It was a tense end to a great game, but it did not do much justice to the referee who had an overall good game, but will now be remembered for not sending Fabregas and Ashley Cole off.