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Apr 29, 2013

Press bemoan Webb appointment

The appointment of Howard Webb to referee Tuesday's Champions League semi-final second leg between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund has been viewed in Spain as a blow to Madrid's chances of overturning their 4-1 loss in last week's first leg.

Webb, known in Spain as the man who failed to send off Netherlands midfielder Nigel de Jong for a violent kick on Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final, was apparently the referee Madrid did not want for the game at the Bernabeu.

Former official Ildefonso Urizar Azpitarte, the refereeing expert for AS, wrote on Monday that Webb's style did not suit Madrid's plans for a whirlwind, fast-paced game that would give them the best chance of a rousing remontada comeback.

"I believe the appointment of the Englishman Howard Webb is unlucky for Madrid," Urizar said. "I do not believe it suits Madrid's style of play. If the game is not tough, with not much physical contact, there are no problems with Webb.

"But if it gets difficult and you must show valour, as we hope happens, he will be an official who stops everything, halts the game too much and gives too many long explanations, cooling down the game. And in the penalty areas, he lets all kinds of things go in order to keep both teams happy."

Basque-born Urizar, who was among La Liga's top officials in the 1980s, also wrote that Webb "is not in the best physical shape, but positions himself well".

AS also recalled that Webb was punished by the Premier League for a poor performance in Sunderland's 3-0 win over Newcastle on April 20 and was then banished to League One to take charge of Colchester's game against Shrewsbury.

Marca also devoted a large space to Webb's appointment on Monday. Reporter Ruben Jimenez wrote that the Yorkshire policeman was "possibly the most famous referee in the world, following [former top Italian referee Pierluigi] Collina, from whom he has inherited the bald patch" - but he added that Webb's performance in Spain's 1-0 World Cup win in Johannesburg had damaged his reputation forever.

"There will be few people who do not know the British official, known in Spanish lands for his disastrous refereeing display in the World Cup final in South Africa, which ended with the greatest joy for Spanish football but will be also be remembered for De Jong's kick in Alonso's chest, a move more belonging to taekwondo than football," Jimenez said.

"Webb, the referee in that game, only showed a yellow card to the Dutchman."

Such criticism is perhaps surprising given that both Madrid boss Jose Mourinho and talisman Cristiano Ronaldo have praised the Englishman, who took charge of Los Blancos' semi-final first leg at Bayern Munich last season.

"Webb is an ideal referee, there is no problem as he has a lot of experience of games at this level," Mourinho, who would have known Webb from his time as Chelsea boss, said before that game.

"Madrid have good feelings about all referees. We will help him to do his work so that his decisions are correct, knowing that he can make a mistake."

Marca also accepted that Ronaldo had had no problems with the official when they met in England.

"The truth is I like this referee a lot," the ex-Manchester United attacker said. "He is English, he has refereed many of my games there and I like him a lot. Things do not always go well for him, just as we players do not always play well."

In all, Webb has taken charge of three Madrid Champions League games in recent seasons - last season's 2-1 defeat in Munich, a 2-2 group stage draw with AC Milan in 2010-11 and a 2-1 group win over Werder Bremen in 2007-08.

He has overseen two previous Dortmund games, which brought a draw and a defeat for the Bundesliga side.

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