Ball 'clearly' crossed the line, says official in Gallas' last-minute drama

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The Independent Football

The official who made the split-second call to award William Gallas' late equaliser at the Emirates on Saturday said he knew instinctively that the ball had gone in. The linesman Darren Cann said that he saw the ball "clearly" cross the line and did not rely on the position of goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar in making his judgement.

Hailed as making one of the best decisions of the season so far, Cann, 38, who is regarded as the country's top referee's assistant spotted that Gallas' shot was a good foot over the touchline before Van der Sar swiped it back out. Cann told The Independent: "I clearly saw the ball cross the line. Luckily I have been involved in many high-profile games and with the experience that you build up over time you know that you can't guess. You have to be 100 per cent certain before you raise your flag. I clearly saw the ball cross the line and there was no hesitation."

Cann was criticised by Arsène Wenger for his part in Emmanuel Adebayor's red card against Chelsea in the Carling Cup final in February – and accused of telling an "absolute lie" – but this time the Arsenal manager had only praise. "He did his job well and I have to congratulate him," Wenger said.

The assistant referee added: "I wouldn't want to deflect from Howard's [Webb] performance because I thought he gave a fantastic refereeing performance and in some way I feel a bit guilty that I have taken a bit of praise. I saw the ball cross the line and immediately raised my flag and indicated to Howard through our microphones that the ball had crossed the line.

"It's always nice in any walk of life to receive some praise and it's very much appreciated. It's really about keeping your feet on the ground. Saturday was a wonderful day and that is now gone and I have to re-focus for the next one."

While the country's top referees are all full-time professionals, there is no such luxury for their assistants. Cann will be back at work today at his Lloyds TSB branch in Norfolk. A father of two, he was a trainee at Norwich City as a teenager before being signed by Crystal Palace. A professional there from 1985 to 1987 he never played for the first team and took up refereeing in 1991.

On the Fifa list since 2005, he has been an assistant referee at the FA Cup final, Carling Cup final, Championship play-off and Community Shield match within the last 12 months. "I don't feel nervous when I go out and do those games," Cann said. "Like a player you repeat the same visualisation and concentration techniques and whether it is a game in front of 20 people in the local park or in front of an alleged one billion viewers it's the same game. You focus on the 22 people on the field and the ball and ignore everything else."