Bad refereeing costs Ajax Champions League Round of 16 qualification

The Amsterdam side put in an encouraging performance against the Spanish giants, but saw two goals wrongly disallowed and were eliminated from the tournament.

Going into their last Champions League Group D game at home against Real Madrid, Ajax were sitting in pole position to secure second spot ahead of Olympique Lyonnais and qualify for the knockout stages for the first time since 2005-06.

Not only did the Eredivisie champions have a three point lead over their French rivals, but they also had a comfortably superior goal difference of +4 against Lyon’s -3, meaning that even a small loss could have been enough to send them through.

But Ajax did not want to take any chances and set their sights on at least a draw at the Amsterdam ArenA in order to progress without the help of Dinamo Zagreb. Their naive attitude seemed to cost them early on when Jose Callejon gifted Madrid an early lead after a quick counterattack.

Nevertheless, the Godenzonen fought back and took over the initiative after falling behind. They caused the Madrid defence all kinds of trouble and deservedly restored parity at the half-hour mark when Nicolas Lodeiro headed home from close range after Antonio Adan failed to hold on to Gregory van der Wiel’s shot. The Portuguese linesman had other ideas, however, and waved his flag for offside, leaving the referee no other choice but to disallow the goal.

Replays showed that the decision was completely incorrect, and the fact that the linesman kept his flag down right until the ball hit the net, several seconds after the initial shot, suggests that he didn’t make the call to put up his flag based on what he saw, but rather on what the consequences of the goal would have been.

The very same assistant referee again made the headlines for all the wrong reasons shortly after when he raised his flag yet again after Ajax had found the net via Miralem Sulejmani. And, unsurprisingly, the linesman was well off the mark as the Serbian was clearly onside when he deflected Vurnon Anita’s shot past the helpless Adan.

Ajax were unable to bounce back from the two huge blows delivered by the refereeing trio and conceded a second goal shortly before the break as Gonzalo Higuain found the net after yet another swift break. The fact that Madrid even made it three well into stoppage time at the end of the game counted for nothing following the remarkable developments in Croatia.

After grabbing the lead in the dying minutes of the first half, Dinamo Zagreb miraculously collapsed in the remainder of the game as they conceded an astonishing seven goals within 50 minutes against a Lyon side that had rested several stars. The Dinamo players didn’t seem to be affected too much by their heavy loss, though, as they put up no resistance.

Defender Domagoj Vida even found his side’s mauling funny enough to treat Bafetimbi Gomis to a wink and a cheerful smile after he had netted one of his four goals on the night for the Ligue 1 giants.

Nevertheless, regardless of what had occurred at the Stadion Maksimir, Ajax coach Frank de Boer was spot on with his comments after the final whistle in Amsterdam.

“We had two perfect goals disallowed, this leaves a very bitter taste. It should have been 2-2 at half-time. That was the correct reflection of the game. This is a major setback, we came so close. We would have held on to that draw,” the Ajax boss said to NOS.

And that exactly is the feeling that lingers following Wednesday’s events. Ajax proved to be Madrid’s equal in he ArenA and deserved to progress. However, they were beaten, and thus eliminated from the Champions League, following some shocking refereeing and a disappointing, perhaps even suspicious, result elsewhere.

Ajax’s loss versus Real Madrid only served to illustrate that referees desperately need technological assistance, and not just goal-line technology. Maybe Uefa president Michel Platini will finally wake up following the latest horrifying show of incapable refereeing and put his money where his mouth is. Sadly, it will be too late for Ajax as they miss out on Champions League progress, and the financial advantages that go with it.

Posted by on Dec 8, 2011

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