Barça to blame for dismissal, says Lehmann

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The Independent Football

The bitter recriminations over Jens Lehmann's dismissal in the European Cup final continued yesterday with the goalkeeper accusing the referee, Terje Hauge, of lacking the confidence not to cave in to Barcelona's concerted pressure to show him a red card.

Lehmann earned the unwanted distinction of becoming the first player to be sent off in Europe's premier final, in the 18th minute for a foul on Samuel Eto'o. But the German said: "I thought that Eto'o might be offside when he went through. I didn't want to foul him but the Barcelona players demanded that I get a red card and the referee wasn't self-confident enough to ignore them."

Ludovic Giuly put the ball in the net after the incident - although the goal was disallowed and Lehmann punished. "I couldn't say anything to him [Hauge] about letting play go on and give the goal," Lehmann said. "The Barcelona players were around him immediately. He could have given the goal instead and nobody can say what the outcome would have been then. It could have been different."

Lehmann said that he would not quickly forget Barça's behaviour. "I didn't say anything but in football and life you always meet twice and I will remember what they did."

He questioned Hauge's suitability for the occasion. "I think he's from Norway. Sometimes it's difficult for a referee when they have two sides who are capable of playing very fast football. It's not that easy for referees to make decisions."

Of Hauge's previous Champions' League tie this season - when he dismissed Chelsea's Asier del Horno at Stamford Bridge also against Barcelona for a lunge at Lionel Messi - Lehmann remarked: "He was the same referee against Chelsea? It was a little bit unlucky to have him as the choice of referee."

The 36-year-old's emotions were very different from the semi-final against Villarreal when he saved Juan Roman Riquelme's 89th-minute penalty to become Arsenal's hero. "As I said after Villarreal, there is a very small line between the upside and the downside in football. In Paris I was on the downside... [but] you always learn from the bad experiences.

"We hope to be better next year, more competitive in the Premiership. Now we have been there once, I want to get there again next season."

Lehmann, who has just signed a new one-year contract with Arsenal, said he had watched the rest of the match with his family in the stands rather than remain on the bench because he was too upset. "I will need a few days to recover from this. But I will remember what Barcelona did to me and take that memory with me to grave."

Pundits in Germany fear that Lehmann, who was recently selected as the country's first-choice goalkeeper for the World Cup finals ahead of Oliver Kahn, will be affected by the incident. Commentators have remarked that he looked numb when interviewed after the match and told German television that he did not know whether his dismissal would haunt him in the weeks ahead. "I don't know," he said. "At the moment, you're just angry. I can't look forward right now [to the World Cup]. There's too much anger now. Ask me tomorrow or the day after tomorrow."

That provoked debate in German newspapers with Bild, the country's best-selling daily, declaring: "Hopefully this shock night won't burden him at the World Cup." The paper claimed that Lehmann was prone to "dark moods".

The Berliner Kurier blamed "Arsenal's young defence" for "deserting" Lehmann. But it also pleaded that the incident would not re-open the debate over whether Kahn should be the No 1 goalkeeper instead.

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