Football: Nielsen stirs up free-kick furore

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The Independent Online
ANOTHER Norwegian stalemate at Wembley, another hard-luck story for England to take away. While the talk beforehand was of revenge over the side who had shut the World Cup door on them, by the finish all England's thoughts of retribution were going in the direction of the Danish referee, Kim Nielsen.

His decision to rub out Alan Shearer's 76th-minute free-kick - which David Platt turned in after Erik Thorstvedt pushed the ball on to a post - cost England the victory they craved and prevented Terry Venables from celebrating a hat-trick of victories at the start of his England reign.

The England coach said he believed the referee had got it wrong. 'He took the advantage away from us. The goalkeeper was ready because he palmed it on to the post. The ref says that Shearer had asked for the wall to be back 10 yards but Alan says he never spoke to him. It's particularly disappointing because we knew the game would be tight and in that situation you wait for your opportunities. The free-kick was just that opportunity.'

For Shearer, who had seen an identically executed dead-ball manoeuvre permitted against Queen's Park Rangers in the throes of Blackburn's Premiership challenge, it was a sorry way to end a season which had seen him lauded as Footballer of the Year.

'The advantage has got to be with the team who have the free-kick because we were on the attack,' he said. 'The referee said that if I had looked at him before I struck it he might have allowed me to take it early.'

Nielsen later explained why he had ordered the kick to be re-taken. 'An England player, I don't know who, asked me about the wall and I was talking to him when Shearer struck his shot,' he said. 'I had not blown the whistle and that is why it had to be taken again. England wanted it both ways and you can't have that.'

Venables described it as a 'dour' affair and put the blame on the cautious approach of the side who share the same World Cup group as the Republic of Ireland. 'They make life difficult and it does not sell too many season tickets. If that's the way they want to play that's their right - I don't'

However, it remained a useful learning process for him and his team, and the whole picture continues to show promise for the European Championship finals in 1996. 'It's only a beginning and if you had said before that we would have five points out of the first six you would have settled for that,' Venables added.