Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, blamed referee Martin Hansson for his side's 2-1 defeat by FC Porto in the first leg of their Champions League tie last night.
Wenger was furious that the Swedish official had allowed Porto to take a free-kick quickly inside the Arsenal penalty area after Lukasz Fabianski handled a backpass from Sol Campbell. The Arsenal defence were unprepared and goalkeeper Fabianski had his back turned as Falcao put the ball into the empty net for the 51st-minute winner.
Hansson is one of the game's most controversial officials, after he failed to spot Thierry Henry's handball in the build-up to the French goal that eliminated Ireland in the two countries' World Cup qualifier last November.
Fabianski also scored an early own-goal on a terrible night for the reserve keeper, who was called into the side after a finger injury to Manuel Almunia. Arsenal recovered from that early set back with an equaliser from veteran Campbell, who celebrated his 200th game for the club with a headed goal in the 18th minute from a corner. However Falcao's controversial goal decided an often bad-tempered game.
Wenger said: "The referee gave them a goal. You go from a situation where there is no free-kick, to one taken quickly where there is no chance to defend. It is laughable. Has he ever played football? I don't know. If you cannot build a wall then you cannot ever defend an indirect free-kick. It's better than a penalty because not even the goalkeeper is in there."
Wenger, who angrily remonstrated with Hansson directly after the goal, claimed the official made two mistakes. "I believe first of all it was an accidental backpass. He kicked it back with a toe kick, the ball hit Sol, it was not on purpose. It has to be intentional to be a free-kick, so that's why it's difficult to understand why the referee doesn't interpret it like that," Wenger said.
"Then, in an indirect free-kick, if you allow a team to take it quickly five metres from goal, how can you defend that? It's better than a penalty. I've never seen that and I've been in the game a long time. You cannot defend that. You cannot organise. The referee cannot allow that. It is completely inappropriate in a situation like that. In the middle of the park is different. But he has to give us a chance to defend the free-kick if he gives it there. Otherwise, he may as well just give a goal."
Cesc Fabregas honestly admitted he, too, might have tried to score with a quick free-kick, and said the Arsenal defence have to accept responsibility for the chaos. "The goals were schoolboy goals," the Arsenal captain said. "After the second one, we were too soft. We were not strong enough to stand up.
"I have no complaints about the second goal. Maybe I would have done the same. When you let in goals like that, I'm sorry, you cannot go anywhere. What can you do? We have nothing to complain about. Sometimes we're not strong enough to lift ourselves, and that's what happened."
Wenger backed his young goalkeeper Fabianski despite his costly mistakes, saying: "I do not want to judge him in front of everybody. We lose as a team and win as a team. Any individual performance has not necessarily to be analysed publicly."
Wenger promised his side would progress to the quarter-finals in the second leg on 9 March, thanks to Campbell's away goal. "We'll turn that round and give it absolutely everything in the second game," Wenger said. "We are disappointed, but we have a good opportunity to do it at home."Reuse content