It is time the Football Association came down on Jose Mourinho and told him to either produce evidence that officials are bent, or stop insinuating it whenever he does not like a result.
The great conspiracy theorist was at it again on Saturday, after Chelsea failed to break down an obdurate Blackburn defence. Failed, that is, apart from a beautifully executed 58th-minute move which ended with Salomon Kalou sliding in Juliano Belletti's pass for what appeared the opening "goal" of the game. In the context of Rovers' rearguard action it would probably have been decisive, had it stood. However, linesman Peter Kirkup raised a flag for offside.
It was a bad mistake, but it happens. Kirkup is an experienced official; he ran the line in Chelsea's 2007 FA Cup final victory and has Champions League experience. One could equally note that Belletti has played for Brazil and has won the Champions League, Joe Cole has 40 England caps, and Andrei Shevchenko cost £30m. Yet Belletti constantly gave the ball away, Cole mishit a volley high into the stands, and Shevchenko wasted three decent chances. Even the best make mistakes – as Mourinho may have done with a team selection that rested John Obi Mikel and Florent Malouda.
Mourinho, though, intimated that Kirkup did not make a mistake, that he made a deliberate decision. "I don't like to think why the decision was made," he said, adding, "I can't explain why it was disallowed and I don't want to explain because it would mean going into dark and grey areas." Pressed, he backtracked only slightly when he said: "I would be a crazy man trying to find a justification for that. It is something you cannot justify. Sometimes decisions are difficult, the mistake is a big mistake but you realise how hard it is. This was a decision so clear, so pure, so clean, it is like water... suddenly he decides to give an offside, so it is a decision you cannot understand and you cannot try to explain."
Some context is required here. In July the Portuguese attorney general announced charges would be filed in connection with 20 cases of alleged match-fixing in the 2003-04 season. This follows Operation Golden Whistle, a three-year investigation into corruption. It is alleged that referees were bought with prostitutes, cash and whistles made of gold. Among the matches being investigated are two involving Porto who won the title under Mourinho that season. Among those implicated is club chairman Jorge Pinto da Costa whose alleged involvement was detailed in a recent book by his ex-girlfriend.
There is no suggestion that Mourinho was involved, but against such a background it is no surprise he is more prone to believe Premier League officials may be corrupt than English managers. While there have been match-fixing scandals here, none have involved referees.
In the past Mourinho has made similar insinuations that, as on Saturday, go beyond the usual one-eyed manager's view. A classic example of the latter was delivered by Mark Hughes, Rovers' manager, when he said he had seen the "goal" on TV and "it was clearly offside" adding, "He was in front, only half a yard but that's enough." Mourinho's comments are also a step on from the ridiculous whining by all leading managers that the fixture list is stacked against them.
As Mourinho may have intended, the dispute over the "goal" obscured another patchy Chelsea performance. Their failure to score owed as much to Rovers' defence, and Chelsea's misfiring attack, as Mr Kirkup.
Rovers' resistance was collective, though Brad Friedel, Christopher Samba and Ryan Nelsen stood out. Even when Mourinho threw John Terry and Alex forward they stood firm with only the invention of Joe Cole, and belatedly, Malouda, troubling them.
Samba paid a price, being accidentally kicked in the head and rendered unconscious by Shevchenko. He came round on Saturday night.
Rovers might have snatched a victory when Mikel fouled Morten Gamst Pedersen. The ball was heading out of play, but when a goalkeeper brings down a forward in a similar situation it is normally a spot-kick. This time Mourinho had no complaints.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Cech; Belletti, Alex, Terry, A Cole (Ben-Haim, 88); Wright-Phillips (Malouda, 57), Sidwell (Mikel, 57), Essien, J Cole; Kalou, Shevchenko. Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Ferreira.
Blackburn: Friedel; Emerton, Samba (Ooijer, 90), Nelsen, Warnock; Bentley, Savage, Dunn (Mokoena, 81), Pedersen; McCarthy (Roberts, 68), Santa Cruz.·Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Derbyshire.
Referee: H Webb (Rotherham).
Booked: Chelsea J Cole, Belletti; Blackburn Warnock, Savage.
Man of the match: Samba.
Attendance: 41,062.Reuse content