Was referee Bjorn Kuipers correct in awarding Barcelona a second penalty v AC Milan?

“I pulled Puyol out of the way but only after he blocked me. Not a single one of the players protested.” – Alessandro Nesta.

“Now I understand Jose Mourinho when it comes to the Nou Camp.” – Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

“They had two penalties, one gifted by us, the other gifted by the referee” – Massimo Allegri.

“Penalty? 2 clear penalties weren’t given to us at San Siro & we didn’t say anything. A player was held back, that’s a penalty.” – Pep Guardiola.

It is worth pointing out that over two legs Barcelona deserved to beat AC Milan in the Champions League quarter final and that in the first game at the San Siro the Catalans should have had one penalty, perhaps even two.

There is however a rather large “but” to all this – Barcelona received a hugely fortunate second penalty decision from referee Bjorn Kuipers at a crucial juncture in the tie.

Just nine minutes after the Rossoneri had equalised and four minutes before half-time, Kuipers awarded a penalty for a shirt tug by Alessandro Nesta on Sergio Busquets in the area.

Shirt pulling is a common occurrence which is rarely penalised by referees. This does not makes Kuipers’ decision wrong, just that it isn’t the norm.

How many more penalties would we see teams like Stoke give away on a regular basis if shirt pulling was consistently penalised?

The incident is further muddied by the fact that the Nesta shirt tug took place before the corner had been taken whilst Carles Puyol blocked off the veteran Italian defender as Xavi hit the ball.

For those who like a bit of conspiracy, it is not the first time Barcelona have enjoyed positive decisions from referees in the Champions League, with the Stamford Bridge semi-final in 2009 and the sending off of Robin van Persie in last year’s competition cited by those theorists.

Footage of the decision for Barcelona’s second penalty v AC Milan in real time is here.

Slow motion of Nesta pulling back Busquets and the subsequent block off of Puyol, in slow motion, is on this video.

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