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Mar 27, 2014

Top Tenner: Official blunders

After Andre Marriner dismissed Kieran Gibbs instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain last weekend, ESPNFC picks out 10 of the best/worst (depending on your point of view) refereeing blunders from down the years. NB -- this does not included anything that occurred at a World Cup, as we have a World Cup Top Tenner for that ... 10. The worst/best dive ever, 2008 A staple in the canon of referee blunders is not spotting a clear dive. From Jurgen Klinsmann at the 1990 World Cup to Robert Pires against Portsmouth in 2003 to the long list of good honest Englishmen who were dropped by fresh air over the years, officials are frequently duped by falling players. However, this is arguably the daddy of them all, from a 2008 game in Colombia between Atletico Junior and America, and the man in question is Emerson Acuna, who flung himself to the ground with a clear 3 yards between him and his nearest adversary. This space notwithstanding, the referee pointed to the spot; a penalty that Atletico converted. He was probably offside when he got the ball as well. So strong work all round. 9. The ballboy nips in, 2006 Santacruzense versus Atletico Sorocaba is not, in truth, a fixture that appears on lists of games you must see before you die. However, it at least deserves a better standard of refereeing than this. Santacruzense were 1-0 down and looking for an equaliser, but an attack down the right came to nothing when a shot went wide of the near post. Their players began trudging back to their positions, but an enterprising ballboy chose to have some fun, sneaking out from behind the goal and putting a ball over the line. Whether he genuinely intended to dupe the referee is unclear, but whatever he meant, it worked, as Silvia Regina de Oliveira awarded a goal, having consulted her linesman, to the incredulity of just about everyone present. "I should have trusted my own vision," said Oliveira afterwards. Well, quite. 8. Felix Brych doesn't see the hole, 2013 A recent one, from earlier this season as Bayer Leverkusen faced Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. Stefan Kiessling went up for a corner at the near post, directed his header just wide, but the ball managed to find a hole in the outside of the net and ended up inside it. Kiessling cast his eyes to the sky in frustration, which quickly turned into bewildered joy when it became clear that referee Felix Brych had given the goal. Hoffenheim demanded a replay after they lost 2-1, but they had no luck, with Brych seemingly unrepentant. "I checked with Kiessling,” he said. “But no one, not even him, said that it wasn't a goal. The ball was in the net and for everyone on the pitch it was a legitimate goal."

7. The replay, 1994 The reason Hoffenheim were relatively confident of getting the replay they asked for is because they had precedent on their side. In 1994, Bayern Munich were, of course, trying for a Bundesliga title and Nurnberg were, of course, trying to avoid relegation. In the middle of a goalmouth scramble, Bayern's Thomas Helmer tried a backheel that went wide, but not according to linesman Jars Joblonski, who ruled that it had gone in. Bayern won the game 2-1, but the German FA decided this simply would not do and ordered a replay. Good news for Nurnberg, right? Wrong. They lost the replay 5-0, and were eventually relegated on goal difference. 6. Freddie Sears goal not spotted, 2009 Anything that annoys Neil Warnock might be viewed by many as a good thing, but he was particularly annoyed after Freddie Sears was denied a goal by referee Rob Shoebridge, who failed to spot that the Crystal Palace striker had hooked a shot into the corner of Bristol City's goal, only for it to bounce out again. "We can put a man on the moon, time serves of 100 miles per hour at Wimbledon, yet we cannot place a couple of sensors in a net to show when a goal has been scored,” said Warnock. "I thought Gary Johnson and his players could have shown more sportsmanship because they knew it was a goal, like everyone else. But I'm 60 years old and maybe I expect too much.” To stick the boot in further, Nicky Maynard scored in the 89th minute for City to give them a 1-0 win. 5. Watford's ghost goal, 2008 Spotting whether the ball has passed between the posts (not over the line -- between the posts) should theoretically be one of the easier jobs for a referee, but at the other end of that scale to the Sears debacle was Stuart Attwell, the young referee who, along with linesman Nigel Bannister, simply invented a Reading goal during their trip to Watford in 2008. Stephen Hunt whipped over a corner that his brother Noel and Watford's John Eustace challenged for, and the ball went over the line -- about five yards wide of the goal. That minor detail didn't deter Bannister, who flagged for the goal, and for reasons that defy understanding Attwell acquiesced. “It's like a UFO landing, a mistake like that,” said Watford boss Aidy Boothroyd. 4. Victor Ikpeba's penalty, 2000 Most of the blunders on this list have been costly in their own way, but none have cost a team in quite the way that this cost Nigeria in the 2000 African Cup of Nations final. Nigeria had come back from 2-0 down against Cameroon to take the final into extra time, and then a penalty shootout. Both teams scored their first two, but Kanu missed Nigeria's third, giving Cameroon a 3-2 lead when Victor Ikpeba stepped up. His kick smacked the crossbar, bounced around a foot over the line and out, but referee Mourad Daami didn't give the goal. This proved crucial as Marc-Vivien Foe hit the next kick wide, but because of Nigeria's two misses Rigobert Song won it for Cameroon with their fifth penalty. "It's part of football," said Ikpeba at the 2002 tournament in Mali. "It was human error, and I think being here may not be quite revenge, but we are here to prove something." Incidentally, Daami took charge of the 2006 final as well. Ikpeba's thoughts on that are sadly unrecorded. 3. Thierry Henry's handball, 2009 While some refereeing decisions are obviously dreadful and heinous miscarriages of justice, had Martin Hansson spotted Thierry Henry's handball in the 2010 World Cup playoff, then we might have been denied the hugely entertaining shambles that was the French squad at the finals in South Africa. "FIFA will probably be happy," said Ireland defender Richard Dunne. "Yet again the big decisions have gone for the bigger team.” One doesn't imagine Dunne's mood was helped by Henry actually admitting the indiscretion straight after the game, sitting with the defender on the pitch, guilt etched across his face. “Sebastien Squillaci went to jump for the ball with two Irish players and I'm behind him,” said Henry. “The next thing I know the ball hit my hand, my arm even. It was right in front of me, I played it. The ref allowed it and that's a question you should ask him." 2. Pedro Mendes' goal that never was, 2005 On Jan. 4 every year, Roy Carroll must send Rob Lewis a lovely bottle of wine with a note. It only needs to say “Thanks, again. R x.” Because if it wasn't for Lewis, linesman that day at Old Trafford, we would probably still be talking about Carroll's calamitous error, as he shovelled Pedro Mendes' hoof from near the halfway line in the latter stages of Tottenham's game against Manchester United, over his own shoulder and beyond the line. “There was nothing I could have done differently apart from run faster than Linford Christie," said Lewis after the game, claiming he was too far away to see the "goal." Of course that excuse doesn't really wash when it was so blatantly obvious to anyone watching, Olympic gold medallist or not, that it was a goal. 1. Ben Thatcher gets away with assault, 2006 Mendes must break out in a cold sweat every time he goes to Manchester. A year after the Carroll calamity, the Portuguese was playing for Portsmouth at Manchester City, and was quietly ushering the ball out of play on his right flank. Presumably, things then start to get a bit hazy for the midfielder, because City left-back Ben Thatcher arrived like a train to deliver a horrendous forearm smash to Mendes' face. Referee Dermot Gallagher somehow only deemed this worthy of a yellow card, despite Mendes being knocked unconscious. The player later said he could remember nothing of the incident and described it as the worst moment of his career. So bad was it that the FA, usually a stubborn old bunch when it comes to these things, made an exception to their usual rule of not revisiting an incident "dealt with" on the field, banning Thatcher for eight games with a further 15 suspended.