Wenger fury at referee over red card


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The Independent Online

Arsène Wenger was furious with referee Lee Probert last night as Arsenal lost 2-1 to Fulham and dropped to fifth in the Premier League. Arsenal had been 1-0 up at Craven Cottage before Johan Djourou was sent off, and their manager criticised both of Djourou's bookings, claiming that Probert "got it all wrong and all on the same side," and calling him "naïve".

He also suggested that Djourou's sending off was due to deliberate provocation from the Fulham players. To add to a poor day for Arsenal, Chelsea secured a late win at Wolves after which manager Andre Villas-Boas said the team were united behind him. The victory included a goal celebration in which some – but not all – Chelsea players ran over to their manager on the touchline.

Wenger (above) clearly believed that the dismissal of Djourou, with 12 minutes left and Arsenal leading, had cost his side the game. "The referee influenced the game in completely the wrong way, in my opinion, and we cannot influence that," he said. "In the last 10 minutes we lost the game because we were down to 10 men."

Djourou was booked twice in the second half, first for a late tackle on Moussa Dembélé, and then for pulling down Bobby Zamora. Wenger argued that the first foul was not worth a yellow card, and that the second followed an unawarded foul by Clint Dempsey on Per Mertesacker. "The first yellow card was not a yellow card, the second yellow card was a foul for us."

Wenger was particularly frustrated with what he saw as Probert's falling for Fulham's attempts to have Djourou dismissed. "At the moment you get the first yellow card they tried every time to get him the second yellow and the referee was naïve enough to give it," he said afterwards.

"I said straight away to Hammill I was very sorry. I was just a bit late on it. I was trying to get my foot in and I was maybe lucky but it wasn't any conspiracy between the ref and us. There were a few things that could have gone either way. It was a full-blooded game and I just apologised to the player because I was a bit late."

Before he was aware of the Arsenal result, Villas-Boas hinted that Chelsea, eight points behind the two Manchester teams who play today and tomorrow, could be back in the title race. Villas-Boas said: "Doing our job is more important than expecting the others to slip when they shouldn't slip. What I would say is that the five or six main teams that are so close together in the table, those clashes between the teams can have a big impact. But first we have to do our job and show our competence and show our consistency."