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First XI: Bad decisions

In light of Harry Redknapp's claim that Mark Clattenburg's decision to allow Nani's goal on Saturday was one of the worst he'd ever seen, ESPNsoccernet selects a First XI of terrible decisions.

As a number of the most infamous decisions have been covered in the First XI World Cup blunders, errors from that tournament have not been included in the feature.

The 'Over The Line' final (1932)

Arsenal became the first team after the First World War to lose an FA Cup final after taking the lead, but there was huge controversy over the goal that paved the way for Newcastle's 2-1 win.

Arsenal had gone ahead on 15 minutes courtesy of Bob John's effort, but Newcastle drew level in an even contest when Jack Allen scored from Jimmy Boyd's cross into the centre. However, Boyd had taken the ball some six inches over the goalline.

A picture emerged showing as much, but referee W.P. Harper seemed to be unmoved by the new use of technology.

"It was definitely a goal," he said. "The ball was definitely in play. I was so certain that the goal was good that I did not consider it necessary to consult the linesman, and I am still just as certain. Whatever the film may appear to show will not make me alter my opinion."

Tinkler's advantage (1971)

Police intervention was required when referee Ray Tinkler ignored the linesman's flag to allow West Brom's Jeff Astle to deliver what proved to be a hammer blow for Leeds' title hopes at Elland Road on April 17.

League-leaders Leeds had been trailing 1-0 on the day, and the hosts - players, manager and fans - were incensed that the visitors were allowed to increase their lead in such controversial fashion.

Leeds felt Colin Suggett was some distance offside when West Brom's Tony Brown intercepted a ball, which bounced several yards forwards. Brown continued his run before slipping in a pass for Astle, who the hosts had also felt was offside.

Commentator Barry Davies noted that "Leeds will go mad and they've every right to go mad", and go mad they did. Supporters rushed onto the field, while manager Don Revie also entered the field to remonstrate. "I have never seen a decision as bad as this," he said after the game, which Leeds lost 2-1.

Writing in the Guardian last year, Tinkler explained that he had simply been working with his own - premature - version of the 'interfering with play' clause. "I was known for always playing advantage - that was the way I refereed," he wrote. "This was no different. Ken Ridden, who used to run the line for me and became the FA's representative on UEFA, always said I was a man before my time."

The 2-1 defeat allowed Arsenal to move ahead of Leeds on goal difference, and the Gunners would finish the season one point clear of Leeds to take the title.

"There are people who still bear a grudge," Tinkler said. "I was a farmer and used to sell potatoes in the Barnsley, Leeds and Rotherham area. There was one man who'd come to me and say, 'I'll have some of that bastard referee's potatoes'. I used to charge him a fiver a ton extra for calling me a bastard."

Allen denied (1980)

Coventry were leading 2-1 in a league game against Crystal Palace when striker Clive Allen fired a free-kick into the top corner. Unfortunately, such was the power of the shot, it bounced back out off the stanchion.

The ref allowed play to continue before a number of angry Palace players approached. He consulted with his linesman before pointing to the touchline for a throw-in. Coventry went on to score another to seal a 3-1 win.

It is not the only time Palace have suffered in this fashion. In 2009, Freddie Sears smashed the ball home in a game against Bristol City, but ref Rob Shoebridge failed to spot it. City won the game 1-0 and Palace boss Neil Warnock was not amused.

"We can put a man on the moon, time serves of 100mph at Wimbledon, yet we cannot place a couple of sensors in a net to show when a goal has been scored," he said. "We were cheated, and I'm not saying that against the referee because he didn't mean to get it wrong."

Mottram caught out (1993)

Referee Leslie Mottram was given two bites of the cherry when Partick Thistle hosted Dundee United in February 1993: United's Paddy Connolly fired the ball into the net and, when it bounced out, Thistle defender Martin Clark caught it and handed it to goalkeeper Andy Murdoch.

Mottram waved play on. The decision didn't matter in the end, as United won the game 4-0, but it did deny Connolly his first senior hat-trick. Mottram, who later blamed his linesman for the incident, went on to referee at the 1994 World Cup.

Carroll drops the ball (2005)

Mark Clattenburg has previous for upsetting Tottenham fans at Old Trafford. Late on in an otherwise forgettable 0-0 draw, Pedro Mendes launched a 55-yard lob, which backpeddling United 'keeper Roy Carroll managed to fumble into his own net. It was clearly over the line, but the goal was not given.

Assistant referee Rob Lewis took much of the blame for the incident, but he said: "I was 25 yards away from goal and it was impossible from that distance to judge if it had crossed the line. There was nothing I could have done differently, apart from run faster than Linford Christie."

Ballboy credited with goal (2006)

The first female referee in South America to take charge of an official men's match, Silvia Regina de Oliveira had worked top-flight games in Brazil from 2003 as well as working at the 2004 Olympic Games.

She is now likely to be forever associated with a Copa Paulista de Futebol game, in which Santacruzense were given a goal when a ballboy entered the field and put the ball in the net.

The reality is that the goal had been given beforehand for a shot that went marginally wide of goal. Atletico Sorocaba had been 1-0 up in the closing moments at Santacruzense when the hosts missed their chance and assistant Marco Antonio de Andrade Motta flagged for a goal.

Ballboy Jose Carlos Vieira then entered the field to knock the ball over the line. "The problem was caused by the flag, not by me," Vieira said. "I wasn't the scorer, but if the fans think I was, I can only be happy."

Silvia Regina and Marco Antonio were given 20-day suspensions for their initial error, while Santacruzense were fined $50,000. "It's not our fault," the Santacruzense president said. "The media created the ballboy story and it just hurt us."

Mistaken identity (2007)

A year after the ballboy fiasco, the state of Sao Paolo witnessed another monumental refereeing error as Rodrigo Martins Cintra sent off the wrong player in a Campeonato Paulista game between Corinthians and Rio Branco.

Corinthians, looking to turn around a run of bad form, had been a goal ahead when they went down to ten men in unfortunate circumstances: Josias tripped Nilmar, but Cintra instead chose to issue a yellow card to Felipe, who had already been booked.

"I don't know what happened," Felipe said. "I didn't say anything to him and he said he saw that it was the No. 7 (Josiah) who committed the offence, but he still sent me off."

Josiah added: "Anyone who watched the game saw that it was me and not Felipe. He's crazy."

In the second half, Cintra showed another Corinthians player - Bruno Octavio - two yellow cards in two minutes, the second coming after an unintentional clash. Rio Branco scored an equaliser against the nine men, and Corinthians then saw their captain, Betao, sent off after he picked up his second yellow card.

Cintra was suspended as a result of his actions, with Marcos Marinho, the head of the Paulista Football Federation's referees committee, saying: "He thought it was one player but it was a different one. He needs some time to get over it."

Top of the flops (2008)

Emerson Acuna, playing for Junior against America de Cali in Colombia's Torneo Finalizacion, fell theatrically to the floor in the penalty area despite having already run more than a yard clear of the last defender.

Incredibly, the referee, Jose Luis Nino, pointed to the spot to allow Junior to take a 19th-minute lead. Acuna then picked up two bookings in the next 15 minutes for unrelated incidents, and the match ended as a 1-1 draw.

The referee failed to mention the incident in his report, but the Colombian football authorities reviewed video evidence and hit Acuna with a three-match ban - one for the dive, two for the dismissal.

"I'm shocked by the news and sad at the same time because I did not try to deceive the referee," Acuna said. "I still believe it was a penalty and I don't think this punishment is correct for someone like me, who has always been honest and humble."

Reading's 'ghost goal' (2008)

Stuart Attwell was at the centre of the headlines when, during a Championship match between Watford and Reading at Vicarage Road, a header four yards wide of the post was given as a goal.

Linesman Nigel Bannister flagged to signal a goal on 13 minutes when Reading's Noel Hunt and Watford's John Eustace rose to meet Stephen Hunt's corner at the near post. The header crossed the line to the side of the goal before Noel Hunt hooked it back into play, but by then the decision had been made.

"I've never seen anything like it," Watford boss Aidy Boothroyd said, having been sent to the stands after protesting the decision. "It's like a UFO landing, a mistake like that. I've been to see the referee and, in fairness, he's only going on what the linesman says. He's working in a team and, if someone comes in his ear telling him it's a goal, I suppose he's got to give it."

The game ended in a 2-2 draw, and the authorities ruled there were no grounds for a replay under the laws of the game.

Ref overlooks headbutt on self (2010)

Benin referee Coffi Codjia was suspended by the Confederation of African Football after failing to properly address the fact he was headbutted during the African Nations Cup semi-final between bitter rivals Algeria and Egypt.

Algeria goalkeeper Fawzi Chaouchi escaped with a booking after his attack on Codjia, which was prompted by a disputed penalty, the subsequent red card for Rafik Halliche and the controversial manner in which Egypt's Hosni Abd Rabou took the spot kick. Codjia failed to mention the whole affair in his match report.

Chaouchi did get himself sent off later on, but it was for an unrelated incident. Algeria finished with eight men and a 4-0 defeat and the headbutt incident was one of "many mistakes", according to CAF president Issa Hayatou, who described the ref's showing as "scandalous".

The best bar none (2010)

While German fans drew comparisons with Geoff Hurst's famous World Cup strike, it would be deeply unfair on the 'Russian linesman' to compare the narrow margins of 1966 with MSV Duisburg's final goal in their 5-0 rout against FSV Frankfurt in January this year.

Christian Tiffert's strike bounced back off the crossbar and landed almost 1.5 yards in front of the line only for assistant Thomas Munch to flag it as a goal and referee Marco Fritz to award it. "I didn't see it," Fritz explained to Bild. "I only reacted."

Tiffert seemed to think the decision may have had merit at the time. "If I was sure that the ball hadn't gone in, I would have said it straight away," he said.


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