Jose Mourinho claimed last night that referee Graham Poll had cost Chelsea victory with his decision to allow Thierry Henry to score from a controversial quickly taken free-kick.
"For me the result was fair if you forget Arsenal's second goal but because it is difficult for me to forget Arsenal's second goal I don't think the result was fair," the Chelsea manager said. Asked if he was unhappy he replied. "Unhappy? Unhappy is not the word but I cannot say the word I have in my heart and my soul. I cannot do it." Mourinho pointedly implied that he would be liable for a Football Association charge if he said what he really thought.
Mourinho claimed that "a top referee" had visited Chelsea's training ground in Harlington in pre-season "with screen projectors" to explain "the rules of the game concerning walls and whistles. Everything was clear." His understanding was that the referee had to blow his whistle before the free-kick is taken and that did not happen with Henry's 29th minute strike.
However the rules clearly state that Mourinho, for once, is wrong. Rule 13 allows the referee discretion to disregard the 10-yard rule and allow the attacker to take the free-kick quickly. Henry confirmed that Poll had asked him "if he had wanted to have a go so I just waited for (Eidur) Gudjohnsen to get out of the way". Poll was therefore correct and had applied the rules correctly.
Indeed Arsène Wenger said that he became aware of the rules after Leeds United had scored in similar circumstances against Arsenal three years ago. Henry also performed the trick last season against Aston Villa. "That is why I know the rules," the Arsenal manager said. "My understanding is that the referee asks the free-kick taker if he wants a wall or not." Wenger expressed surprise that a referee had visited Chelsea. "We never had a referee at our training ground," he said. "I don't think it is in the rules that the referee comes to the training ground." Wenger admitted that he did not think allowing such free-kicks to be taken was right but defended Henry. "I feel it is an intelligent exploitation of the rules," he said and also blamed Chelsea's Petr Cech. "The keeper has to adapt as well," he said. "I don't know why today the keeper stands on the post to line up his wall."
Wenger expressed irritation that the incident dominated post-match discussions. "I think there were more interesting things that happened in the game," he said although he was also "frustrated" that Chelsea had been allowed to come from behind twice. "We suffered at set pieces but we suffer a lot because we are a small side," he said.
Both managers said it had been a tough, physical contest with Mourinho claiming his players had done well to keep their "cool" because of the nature of Arsenal's second goal. The result, he said, kept "the distance" between the two sides and gives "Manchester United the chance to close the gap a little bit".Reuse content