Referee reneged on free-kick promise, says Cech

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The Independent Football

The referee, Graham Poll, came under renewed attack yesterday as the Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech blamed him for costing his side victory at Highbury on Sunday by allegedly reneging on a promise to blow his whistle before Thierry Henry's free-kick.

The referee, Graham Poll, came under renewed attack yesterday as the Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech blamed him for costing his side victory at Highbury on Sunday by allegedly reneging on a promise to blow his whistle before Thierry Henry's free-kick.

Poll maintains he did not need to sound his whistle before Henry's free-kick which flew past Cech as he was lining up his wall. That lapse earned Cech a rebuke from his team-mate John Terry, given that Chelsea were aware of Henry's reputation for such audacity.

"I just said to Petr that we'd worked on it a couple of times in training. But I wasn't digging him out or anything," Terry, the Chelsea captain, said.

Cech echoed Jose Mourinho's post-match criticisms. "We knew that Henry sometimes tries to take these kicks quickly," Cech said.

"We were warned about it and saw such situations on a video of Arsenal's Champions' League tie against Panathinaikos. Three of our players therefore stood in front of the ball. When they were returning to the wall they asked Mr Poll if he was going to whistle. He said that he would. But then he did not. I am sure that, without this decision, we would have won."

Poll defended himself saying: "The whistle doesn't need to be blown. I asked Thierry Henry: 'Do you want a wall?'. He said: 'Can I take it please?' He was very polite. I said: 'Yes'.I gave the signal for him to take it, and that's what he did."

The former referees' chief, Philip Don came to Poll's defence, arguing that he correctly applied the rules. "The referee does not have to blow the whistle to restart the game - it can be the voice, the hand, the arm or the nod of the head," Don said. "The advantage should always go to the non-offending team."

Cech insisted Poll must have "an uneasy conscience" and joked, "Maybe he is a supporter of Arsenal. Or maybe he just had a blackout. It is difficult to explain."

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