‘The death of football’: Dark cloud over referees in Serie A after Catania’s defeat at the hands of Juventus
Built up as a grudge match by the Italian press leading up to Sunday, Juventus knew what they were getting themselves into as they made the trip to Sicily to take on Catania. In the corresponding fixture last season the Italian champions stuttered to a stalemate, as it took a strike from the since departed Miloš Krasić to maintain the Bianconeri’s unbeaten run. This time Catania would have a point to prove as they aimed to go one better than this time last year.
The Turin-based outfit’s assistant manager Angelo Alessio asserted that the players were ready to be “cranked up” against Catania. “We know the quality we posses, and despite giving us a tough time in both fixtures last season we are ready for them now.” A victory would be decisive for the side, as it would maintain the breathing space they have at the top.
“You can guarantee we will do everything in our power to win this one, we want more,” declared former Juventus defender Nicola Legrottaglie in midweek. The battle cry was echoed by manager Ronaldo Maran, who insisted a positive result from the fixture was exactly what the club needed to make that step up and challenge for a Europa League place.
Antonio Conte’s men headed south having confidently dispatched their closest title rivals Napoli at home the previous weekend. However, their trip to Denmark to face FC Nordsjælland highlighted their weaknesses in several departments and proved to be their third successive draw in the Champions League. Catania meanwhile have slowly been climbing the Serie A table, and continue to improve despite the loss of mercurial manager Vincenzo Montella in the summer.
Visitors to the Stadio Angelo Massimino were guaranteed an intense contest, and in the 26th minute the spectacle fully kicked into gear. Nicolás Spolli nodded down Giovanni Marchese’s cross, before forward Gonzalo Bergessio bundled the ball past Gianluigi Buffon after it ricocheted off the post. Referee Andrea Gervasoni initially awarded the goal, and linesman Luca Maggiani kept his flag down and preceded up the touchline towards the centre circle.
The Juventus bench erupted, as midfielders Simone Pepe and Emanuele Giaccherini were chief among the protestors screaming at Maggiani. In the confusion that followed Gervasoni consulted Maggiani and his fellow officials through his headset, before disallowing the goal as Francesco Lodi was judged to have touched the ball after Spolli’s header. The arbitrating team therefore concluded that Bergessio must have been in an offside position, and once again replays proved that was not the case.
In the subsequent counter protests from the Catania players and bench, club president Antonio Pulvirenti was sent to the stands with full knowledge of what occurred. “It is hard to decipher, was it Pepe or Giaccherini that disallowed the goal? It is clear they had an affect as they went out of their technical area to protest and have the decision overturned.”
In the space of a minute the Rossazzurri faithful went from celebrating to hailing down abuse at Gervasoni, Maggiani and the Juventus substitutes on the sidelines. The decision was only compounded further after the interval, as once again Gervasoni failed to make the correct call in the built up to Arturo Vidal’s strike that ultimately proved to be the winner.
On loan Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner was in an offside position when Montenegrin Mirko Vučinić played him through. Marino Andújar parried the Dane’s initial attempt, but Chilean international Vidal followed up, and prodded in the winning goal for his side. The Catania supporters and players protested to no avail, and the score settled at 1-0 after 90 controversial minutes. “Ladri, Ladri, Ladri” – “Thieves” – was the chorus chanted by the home side’s support as the players left the pitch.
Juventus director Beppe Marotta maintained that “Bergessio’s goal would never have been decisive” in the aftermath of the match. “Nobody can say we did not deserve the result, as we dominated the game throughout.” Pulvirenti responded to Marotta by requesting the entire game be replayed, and called on him to discipline his own players. “We accept errors, but this is more. If the tables were turned we would punish our players. I ask them to replay the match or award us the 3-0 victory, it would be a great gesture.”
The refereeing errors were only brought into further disrepute later on, as it was revealed Maggiani had a Facebook page with the Bianconeri’s emblem attached. The FIGC denied the page was officially linked to the linesman, but the statement did not stop certain sections of the Italian press and Pulvirenti claiming he was infact a supporter of the club. “I have printed the page out, I am no expert but I am shocked.”
Results in other Serie A fixtures brought to light other mistakes made by officials. Lazio were denied a clear penalty against Fiorentina when the ball struck Colombian Juan Cuadrado’s hand. Sergio Pellissier was also not awarded a spot kick against Napoli when fouled by Hugo Campagnaro. Stephan El Shaarawry’s winner for Milan against Genoa should also have been chalked off, as Ignazio Abate was offside in the build up.
Decades of suspicion and conspiracy in Italian football mean these findings will not simply fall by the wayside, and should Juventus pick up a consecutive title they will only live on. “Today we have witnessed the death of football,” concluded Pulvirenti, and while his claim was in the heat of the moment, it should not be dismissed out of hand.Tagged in: football, serie a
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