Did UEFA Fix The Champions League Semifinal?

Sundays are for topless photos of Lakers girls … and for football. So while there’s no football going on over here, there’s always “football” (cough, soccer) going on across the pond, and three days after a miraculous late goal landed Barcelona, not Chelsea, in the Champions League final, more and more evidence keeps popping up that the game’s referee — Norweigan Tom Henning Ovrebo — may have been under orders to do whatever he could to get Barcelona to the final.

uefa.com screen grab

As fully elucidated in THE SPOILER, not only did Ovrebo fail to call up to four clear penalties on Barcelona down the stretch of the game, UEFA also may have unintentionally let the cat out of the bag on its own official web site, posting a match report of the game (think an American game story) claiming a 1-1 draw before it had even been played.

There aren’t any visual screengrabs of the 1-1 report, but there have been multiple correspondents confirming its existince, and the fact that it called for Barcelona to score late to force a tie and advance to the Champions League Final on the competition’s bizarre away goals rule. Making the matter even stickier is the fact that it also said Chelsea stars Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and Alex would all receive yellow or red cards … and all were in the second half.

Add to that the growing sentiment that UEFA was committed to avoiding another Manchester United-Chelsea final at all costs, and you have the makings of a full-fledged Tim Donaghy-Italian refereeing scandal.  If Chelsea had advanced, many feel it would have undermined the significance of the Champions League as Europe’s primary championship, making it just another annual all-English title to win.

There’s a lot to that, and a lot to make one think that the paranoid Chelsea fans may be on to something. Then again, between Ballack chasing down the ref during added time in the game itself, Drogba telling international cameras that the referee was “a f#*king disgrace” and defender Jose Bosingwa also accusing UEFA of match fixing, the team isn’t exactly garnering any sympathy by reacting to disappointment with the cool, measured calm of their manager, Guus Hiddink.

Of course, Hiddink is Dutch, so maybe he’s just really high. It’s believable. Besides, if there was ever a time when a coach needed to light up to get past disappointment, that’s got to be it, right?