Andre Villas-Boas, the Chelsea manager, last night launched a stinging attack on referee Howard Webb for awarding Manchester United the second of two penalties that contributed to the defending champions' three-goal comeback at Stamford Bridge to earn a 3-3 draw.
Villas-Boas said that the second penalty for United – for a challenge by Branislav Ivanovic on Danny Welbeck – was "very, very dubious" and went further in his criticism by attacking Webb, the country's leading referee, personally. "We expect, in top games, top refs and, at the moment, it hasn't been happening for us," the Portuguese said. It didn't happen at Old Trafford [in September's league match, which United won 3-1] with two goals offside, and maybe today a dubious decision that, in the end, shifted the running of the game.
"I don't know if Howard Webb had the correct angle to make the decision, but it was unlucky for him to give it. I'm not sure if he's compensating for anything in the first half [when United were denied two strong claims], but it was the wrong decision.
"In both games against United, top, top refs... you expect it to be perfect in terms of refereeing. On these two, they have had a direct influence on the result. Maybe the United game could have gone 3-3 at Old Trafford. But today was a dubious decision that helped give them the stimulus to go 3-3."
Both penalties were converted by Wayne Rooney before the substitute Javier Hernandez scored the third with six minutes left - this after Chelsea had gone into a 3-0 lead within the hour. The incident that Villas-Boas appeared to be referring to from the first half – for which he suggested Webb might be "compensating" for – was a foul on Welbeck by Gary Cahill which Sir Alex Ferguson claimed should have led to the Chelsea defender's dismissal.
Ferguson said that United should have had two spot-kicks in the first half, for the Welbeck incident and when Ashley Young was brought down by Jose Bosingwa and placed the responsibility at the door of linesman Darren Cann.
"I don't blame Howard Webb, I blame the linesman. I can't understand that," Ferguson said. "The linesman should have given two penalties. They happened right in front of him - how can he not see that? We had two penalties in the second half which were justified; we could have had four penalties."
The draw for United meant they are two points behind leaders Manchester City. "I see it as two points dropped, we played so well especially as we got off to a terrible start," Ferguson said. "It's not easy to come back like that but we are a far better team than you saw. We had a bit of bad luck with the goals but the players didn't let it affect them."
Rooney backed up Ferguson's assertion that United had fallen further behind in the title race. "It's two points lost," he said. "We understand that, but after being 3-0 down – the City players at home must have liked that – we enjoyed the way we fought back. A lot of teams might have put their heads down and accepted defeat, but we never put our heads down."
Rio Ferdinand was the target of chants about his brother Anton who is at the centre of the racial abuse allegations against John Terry. Later Ferdinand offer sarcastic thanks to the Chelsea fans on Twitter for "inspiring" him. David de Gea's save, from Juan Mata's injury-time free-kick, helped preserve United's point, and Ferguson added: "De Gea's save was fantastic, we've seen that talent that he has and in two or three years' time you are going to see all that."
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