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German FA rejects 'ghost goal' appeal

The sports court of the German Football Association (DFB) has rejected Hoffenheim's appeal for a replay of their "ghost goal" defeat to Bayer Leverkusen.

After a 90-minute hearing on Monday, the court gave its ruling on the controversy, which erupted after Stefan Kiessling's header went wide but then crept into the net through a hole in the side-netting. The awarding of a goal proved the decisive moment in Leverkusen's 2-1 win.

"Following the hearing, the basis for opposition was unverifiable," judge Hans E Lorenz said. "It was an indisputable factual decision by referee Dr Felix Brych."

The judge added that the decision "might not be satisfying in sporting aspects", but stressed that the verdict abided by existing rules. "An exception in the sense of an intolerability of the factual decision is not made," he said.

Hoffenheim can appeal against the verdict at the DFB federal court within a week.

During the hearing Lorenz told Kiessling, who is routinely overlooked by Germany manager Joachim Loew despite his prolific form at club level: "Finally, you have received an invitation to the DFB."

The Leverkusen attacker replied: "I don't have to answer that, I guess." He said that when the goal had been awarded he at first thought the Hoffenheim keeper "had somehow put the ball into the back of the net", adding that he had not considered the possibility of a hole in the side-netting.

Referee Brych, also a witness said: "I thought the ball was going wide. I lost sight of the ball as my view was blocked. Then I realised the ball had gone in." After consulting his assistants, he awarded the goal.

Speaking before the ruling, UEFA president Michel Platini urged both teams to agree to replay the Bundesliga match, but the DFB said it would abide by FIFA rules -- which state that a referee's decision is final once play has restarted.

On Monday, several German papers quoted Platini as saying it would be "a fantastic fair play signal if both clubs agree on a replay".

At the weekend, Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol told the German TV show Doppelpass: "That was out of the ordinary. I don't want to hide behind FIFA rules. One should set a clear example."

Meanwhile, a change of rules could speed up the introduction of goal-line technology to German football. Last week, the German Football League claimed the margin of error of 3cm in the current technology was "not tolerable".

But in April, FIFA will reduce the margin to 1.5 cm, and DFL president Reinhard Rauball said: "We have received a lot of criticism that we refused goal-line technology", adding that the change to a 1.5cm margin of error "would also have been our proposal".

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