The referee for Wednesday night's European Cup final, Terje Hauge, has admitted that he may have acted too hastily in sending off the Arsenal goalkeeper, Jens Lehmann, in the 18th minute of the game.
"The ideal thing would have been to wait a few seconds," the Norwegian admitted after the match. "If I'd done that, I could have given the goal and eventually given a yellow card. Of course everyone wants a goal, so this was a key situation."
Hauge, who will not referee at this summer's World Cup in Germany, put the haste with which he made his decision down to the fact that he was " incredibly focused" on the occasion.
He added: "We had full control of the match and all in all I'm quite happy with my performance. The match started well, then obviously there was the incident with the sending-off. At this point I would have liked to have taken a few more seconds before I made my decision."
Lehmann was dismissed for bringing down Samuel Eto'o when the Barcelona striker was clear on goal. The loose ball fell to Ludovic Giuly, who scored. But the goal was disallowed and play called back for Lehmann to be dismissed. Many observers felt Hauge should have used the advantage rule, given the goal and allowed Lehmann to stay on the pitch.
Yet Hauge is adamant he had every right to dismiss the goalkeeper. " Under other circumstances I would perhaps have done something different, but this mostly rested on the positioning in relation to the situation," he said. "Everything happens quickly on the pitch and for me it looked as if there was physical contact. As well as that it happened in the linesman's working area and I had no reason to doubt him. It was obviously a big game for Arsenal, and to lose is a huge disappointment. So I can understand their frustration. But we'll have to give it a few days so we can discuss this more sensibly."
The performance of Hauge and his assistants has provoked scrutiny ever since, on the eve of the game, the would-be linesman Ole Hermann Borgan was pictured in a Norwegian newspaper wearing a Barcelona shirt. He was replaced by Arild Sundet and it was he who correctly ruled Eto'o onside before Lehmann fouled him. It was the other assistant, Steinar Holvik, who provoked Arsenal's anger when he then adjudged the Cameroonian onside for Barça's first goal.
Questions have also been raised as to whether Hauge, who received death threats after dismissing Chelsea's Asier del Horno earlier this season in the same competition, was experienced enough for the occasion.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter last night criticised Hauge's performance. Blatter felt the advantage rule should have been applied to Giuly's " goal" and said the match was "not helped by the refereeing". Blatter said: "He should let the advantage, finish the action and then he can come back and whistle. He was too fast."
Was the ref right? The key moments for Terje Hauge
Lehmann Dismissal (17 minutes)
In dragging Eto'o down outside the area Lehmann denied him 'a clear goalscoring opportunity', a red card offence. When the ball rolled to Giuly, he scored. Most referees would have allowed the goal and then booked Lehmann. ERROR
Marquez Foul (24 minutes)
Missing the ball, Marquez took Henry's instep. Hauge did not even give a free-kick. ERROR
Eboue 'Dive' (36 minutes)
Eboue could have been sent off and not booked for his wild tackle on Van Bronckhorst. He then clearly dived for free-kick from which Campbell scored. Hauge should have booked Eboue for simulation, which would have resulted in his dismissal for two yellows. ERROR
Henry Booking (51 minutes)
Henry was angry at being booked for tackle on Van Bommel, but his back leg came through Van Bommel's legs and tackle was from behind. CORRECT
Eto'o Goal (77 minutes)
Eto'o may have been nearer the goal than the last Arsenal defender when Larsson played the ball through to him but it was a very close call. Most officials will follow Fifa advice to give any benefit of doubt to the attacker. CORRECT
Hauge and his officials had a poor match, but they were not biased, the errors were even-handed.