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10 Biggest Controversies in UEFA Champions League History

UEFA is the second most powerful body in the world of football after FIFA. UEFA governs the European club competitions with Champions League being the biggest jewel in its crown. In 2015, Champions League’s final between Barcelona and Juventus was viewed by over 180 million people in 200 different countries. Every shot, every tackle, every block is scrutinized by millions of people around the globe. Every part of the game is watched and re-watched with eagle eyes as vociferous fans wish for their teams to win the coveted trophy. Since its inception in the year 1992, the competition has faced its fair share of memorable moments. Some of these memorable moments were not all that good. Champions League has been affected with several controversies over its 25 year history. Here is a look at 10 of the Biggest Controversies:

10- Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich (2017)

Ronaldo's second goal of the goal of the night was offside

Ronaldo’s second goal was a clear offside

Referees have long been at the center of several of the most prominent controversies in any competition and Champions League is no different. This incident is the latest one in a long line of close matches decided by refreeing decisions. The two behemoths went into the second leg of the quarter final in Madrid with the home side leading the tie by 2-1. The match went into extra time which was filled by some questionable calls from the officials. The second and third goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo were both off side and  Arturo Vidal’s sending off seemed uncalled for as Casemiro still remained on the pitch. Refree Viktor Kassai was criticized for his decisions from all those who witnessed the match. Carlo Ancelotti later siad that the refree “was not up to the mark”.

9- Barcelona vs Inter Milan (2010)

An Oscar worthy performance by Sergio Busquets

An Oscar worthy performance by Sergio Busquets

Sergio Busquets is a modern day great. If there is one criticism of him, it is that his actions sometimes seem more appropriate for a drama stage than a football game. It was the second leg of the semi-final between Jose Mourinho’s Inter and Per Guardiola’s Barcelona. Inter were leading 3-1 in the tie. Thiago Motta, Inter midfielder, was already booked and was contesting for a loose ball with Busquets. Motta’s flailing arm brushed Busquets’ face but his play acting would have you believe that he was viciously punched. This earned Motta his marching orders with Busquest caught getting a glimpse of the action while rolling on the floor with his hands on his face. Inter would, however, have the last laugh as they beat Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate and went on to win the Champions League that season.

8- Barcelona vs Arsenal (2011)

Barcelona faced Arsenal in the round of 16 tie. Arsenal won at the Emirates 2-1 courtesy of goals from Robin Van Persie and Andrey Arshavin. Barcelona were dominating the second leg with scores settled at 1-1. Arsenal’s main man, Robin Van Persie, had already earned a yellow card by fouling Dani Alves when a bizarre decision by referee changed the tie.

Referee pointed to the bench as Robin Van Persie claimed to have not heard the whistle

Referee pointed to the bench as Robin Van Persie claimed to have not heard the whistle

The Dutchman was adjudged offside by the linesman and the referee blew to bring a halt to the game. The player did not hear the whistle due to the deafening noise in the Camp Nou and took an off target shot on goal. According to rules, a player should be booked when he kicks the ball out of play after the game is stopped by the referee. So Robin Van Persie got his second booking of the evening and saw from the bench as Arsenal went on to loose 3-1 to the eventual Champions League winners.

7- Legia Warsaw vs Celtic (2014)

In a unique case of carelessness, a team lost a tie despite winning 6-1 on aggregate. Such was the case of Polish champions Legia Warsaw in 2015. They faced Celtic in the qualifier round with the winner being a part of the final play off round. Legia won the first leg 4-1 at home despite missing two penalties. The second was also easily won 2-0 as the Scottish champions were handed an embarrassing defeat on aggregate. The two matches went perfectly for the Polish side except one little mistake.

In the second leg, Legia manager brought on Bartosz Bereszynski for the last four minutes. Bereszynski was suspended because of receiving a red card in Legia’s final European match last season. Bereszynski had not been registered in Legia’s squad for the second qualifying round, and so the matches did not count towards his suspension. Celtic won the away leg 3-0 and qualified on away goals. Maribor defeated Celtic in the play off round to make it to the final 32.

6- Marseille’s Expulsion (1993)

Deschamps and Desailly with Champions League trophy in 1993

Deschamps and Desailly with Champions League trophy in 1993

The inaugural season of the Champions League was won by the French juggernaut, Marseille. To this day they are the only team from France to have won the trophy. Marseille had players like Didier Deschamps, Basil Boli and Marcel Desailly but the club president Bernard Tapei still resorted to nefarious means. Marseille faced Valenciennes before the game against Milan in the final. Tapie bribed Valenciennes’ players to lose the game. Tapei’s conduit of bribery, Jean-Jacques Eydelie later made doping allegations also. He claimed that he and other Marseille players were given injections before the final. Tapie was later convicted of fraud and match fixing. Marseille were stripped of their French Division title and were banned from UEFA competitions in the next season. However, they are still the inaugural champions of the most coveted trophy in club football.

5- Shakhtar Donetsk vs Nordsjaelland (2012)

Parkhurst confronted Luiz Adriano after his goal against Nordsjaelland

Parkhurst confronted Luiz Adriano after his goal against Nordsjaelland

Sportsman spirit is a integral part of the “Beautiful Game”. Football represents goodwill and brotherhood so any unsportsmanlike conduct is highly criticized and put under severe scrutiny. Such was the case in 2012 when Shakhtar Donetsk faced Norwegian champions Nordsjaelland. An off the ball incident saw Morten Nordstrand go down as he was unintentionally struck on the jaw by Fernandinho. Nordsjaelland had possession at the time and Willian hit the ball towards the opposition box on ball drop aiming to give the possession back. Luiz Adriano, Shakhtar striker, chased the ball and scored the goal, an incident that perplexed the onlookers. Luiz Adriano was criticized in all footballing circles after his disgraceful goal.

4- Barcelona vs AC Milan (2012)

In 2012, Barcelona came back to Camp Nou with a 0-0 draw from San Siro against Milan. They were firm favorites to win the match and make an appearance in their fifth consecutive semi final. Barcelona did eventually win 3-1 on the night but the win was again marred with controversy. Of Barca’s three goals, two were scored by Lionel Messi from the penalty spot. The first penalty call was undeniable but the second one infuriated Rossoneri players and fans alike. Dutch referee Björn Kuipers awarded the second penalty to Barcelona as Alessandro Nesta hauled down Sergio Busquets inside the box. This penalty was uncalled for as Puyol was the one who fouled Nesta first. This decision changed the game as Messi scored the game’s third goal and restored Barca’s lead.

3- Chelsea vs Liverpool (2005)

Luis Garcia celebrates his "ghost goal" against Chelsea

Luis Garcia celebrates his “ghost goal” against Chelsea

In this season, we have seen the goal line technology being very effective in the Champions League. It is the first full season in which UEFA has taken the aid of this technology. The calls for the implementation of this technology started as far back as 2005. Chelsea took on Liverpool in the semi-final. It was a very tight contest with the tie ending 1-0. Luis Garcia scored a “ghost goal” at Anfield. To this day there is no conclusive result of whether the goal should have stood or not. As William Gallas hooked the ball away from the goal line, Liverpool celebrated the most famous ghost goal in the Champions League. This win was followed by the Miracle of Istanbul as Liverpool defeated Milan in the final despite being 3-0 down at half time.

2- Manchester United vs Real Madrid (2013)

In Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season at Old Trafford, he was tasked with overcoming Real Madrid in the round of 16. The away leg went well as they secured a 1-1 draw at Santiago Bernabéu. The second leg was finely poised when the referee cost Manchester United a chance at qualification. As the ball went in the air, Nani and Alvaro Arbeloa, both ran towards the ball. With his eyes firmly fixed on the ball, Nani lifted his foot chest high. His boot struck Alvaro Arbeloa instead of the ball. Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakır gave the Portuguese his marching orders after this incident.

Nani's high foot gave the referee a reason to send him off

Manchester United were reduced to 10 men because of Nani’s high foot on Alvaro Arbeloa

Sir Alex Ferguson was so furious that for the first time in his 27 year managing career at Old Trafford, he assigned one of his staff to attend the post match conference. Mike Phelan, in the conference, said that Sir Alex was distraught and in “no fit state” to address the media.

1- Chelsea vs Barcelona (2009)

Refereeing blunders at its best. Both the sides could make their cases as to how they could have won the game had it not been for some woeful decisions. Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo was the culprit as he waived several legitimate penalty calls against Barcelona and sent off Eric Abidal when he did’nt even make the challenge. Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka could and maybe should have all won a penalty for the fouls committed against them. Two handballs from Pique and Samuel Eto’o also went unnoticed as the match ended 1-1 and so did the tie. Barcelona progressed to the final thanks to the away goal rule leaving the Blues incensed.

Drogba had some words to say to referee Ovrebo after the match

Drogba had some words to say to referee Ovrebo after the match

After the match, Didier Drogba faced the cameras and shouted “this is a fucking disgrace” for the world to hear. Ovrebo continued to get threatening messages and e-mails from Chelsea fans for the next few years.


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