Monday, March 2, 2009

No Breeze as ref comes under fire - again

No Breeze as ref comes under fire.
The A-League's season-ending decider has once more been hijacked by contentious decision-making from the men in the middle.

Melbourne Victory won this season's grand final by virtue of Tom Pondeljak's second-half strike, but were helped immeasurably when referee Matthew Breeze decided to send off Adelaide United's Brazilian striker Cristiano with just 10 minutes on the clock.

Breeze, Australia's most experienced referee, saw Cristiano's aerial tangle with Rodrigo Vargas as a deliberate attempt to inflect harm on the Melbourne central defender. But he was in the minority.

Even yellow seemed harsh on Adelaide's leading scorer for what amounted to an everyday jumping challenge. But after consultation with linesman Matthew Cream, Cristiano was dismissed and Adelaide lost the season's showpiece finale to Melbourne for the second time in three years.

Breeze had been awarded the game's number one job after Mark Shield's controversial handling of last year's grand final between Newcastle and the Central Coast. That match was another tarnished by poor officiating when Shield missed an obvious handball in the penalty area by Jets midfielder James Holland, then sent off goalkeeper Danny Vukovic for protesting.

Twelve months on and senior management at Football Federation Australia headquarters are once again pouring over the ramifications of Breeze's remarkable action.

He evened the ledger somewhat in the second-half by dismissing Melbourne's Danny Allsopp for a supposed headbutt on Robbie Cornthwaite. Both the Victory coach Ernie Merrick and the Socceroos striker were livid afterwards and the club plan to appeal the decision.

Under the Sydney Morning Herald headline "Ref steals spotlight in showpiece showdown", Michael Cockerill, Fairfax's chief football writer, opined: "Should Breeze have been given the job in the first place. On reputation, yes. On form, no. But the man who somehow missed (Kevin) Muscat's stud-work on Daniel Mullen a fortnight ago was given a reprieve, and blew it."

Fox Sports commentator Robbie Slater went further: "I thought it was a disgraceful decision and the grand final was ruined. There was no swinging elbow from Cristiano … it was a complete accident."

Slater also called on the FFA to recruit a leading referee from overseas for future grand finals.

Adelaide received credit for not allowing their heads to drop.

Two years ago, they were memorably walloped 6-0 in the grand final after Ross Aloisi was red carded in the first-half. But there was no repeat of that capitulation with coach Aurelio Vidmar even praised for his tactical nous in man-marking Carlos Hernandez and starting with three central defenders.

It was nevertheless Melbourne's day - and, in truth, their season. Adelaide might have reached the AFC Champions League final but Merrick's men have been the premier domestic side this year having clean swept all three trophies.

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

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