“This was Drogba’s bonkers moment, he was a mad-man in flip-flops” – Sam Wallace

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Conspiracy is a very tough word and you have to be able to prove it. But when you analyse things closely, then I also start thinking … I cannot say if Uefa would not like another all-English final. What I’m sure about is, in big games like this, you need top-notch referees who have lots of experience in the big leagues in Italy, Spain, England and Germany. Players make many mistakes, coaches make mistakes, referees make mistakes. That’s why we speak about giving them the benefit of the doubt. But if you have seen three or four situations waved away, then [Ovrebo’s performance] was the worst I have seen. At this moment, I’d have to think a lot if I have seen worse. The overall feeling is one of being robbed and one of injustice. That’s why it was so hot and angry.” – Guus Hiddink.

Runner-up: “I’m fully behind Didier and the way he reacted. The fact is the referee is the one who should face the consequences, not Didier.” – John Terry.

Today’s overview: The lack of consensus in the papers is staggering as the English media attempt to get their collective head around how Barcelona, and not Chelsea, will face Manchester United in the Champions League final.

Paul Hayward justifies Barcelona’s place in the Champions League final. “Barcelona earned the right to face United on the grandest stage by dominating possession across the 180 minutes of both legs but they failed to dent Chelsea’s iron constitution until this semi-final had apparently run away from them.” Amy Lawrence suggests that the Catalans’ name is on the cup concluding “to have somehow taken their punishment against them, and delivered the perfect sucker punch at the end … Well, it is almost as rewarding as winning 6-2 at the Bernebeu.”

From the Chelsea perspective, Matt Hughes remains shellshocked over the their four rejected penalty claims. “Of Chelsea’s four most strident penalty claims, two appeared undeniable, when Florent Malouda was pulled down by Daniel Alves in the first half and Gerard Pique handled in the second.” Henry Winter also empathises with the Blues bitter disappointment. “Whether you like Chelsea or not, whether you can stomach the crassness of some of their fans or not, whether their powerful football is to your taste or not, Guus Hiddink and his hard-working collection of players did not deserve this brutal fate: a Champions League semi-final decided by the incompetence of a referee rather than the skill of players. Graham Poll adds his voice to the Chelsea camp writing “in any game, on any other night, any of at least three appeals would have been given, and Chelsea can feel justifiably hard done by, even enraged, at the injustice. ”

On the conspiracy theorists, Matt Hughes mocks “there is no other club in football that relish a conspiracy theory as much as Chelsea. Perhaps the Shed End should be replaced by a grassy knoll.”

The controversial performance of referee Tom Henning Ovrebo is chewed over by the hacks. For Kevin McCarra “the official did not inspire any confidence whatsoever,” while Patrick Barclay barks “Uefa’s president should be worried about the standard of refereeing represented by the Norwegian… Chelsea had genuine cause for complaint against Ovrebo.” Matt Dickinson though delivers the low blows against the match referee. “Should Tom Henning Ovrebo officiate a match above under-13 level outside his native Norway, then something is rotten at the heart of Uefa’s headquarters… this was a performance of such worrying ineptitude, mistake upon panicked mistake, that it was hard to work out whether Chelsea or Barcelona had come off worse.”

Others, however, are quick to lambast Chelsea for their behaviour at full time. Richard Williams leads the anti-Blues backlash writing “the rancour of Chelsea’s response to defeat, orchestrated by the incorrigible Didier Drogba, deserves to earn them punishment from Uefa as well as the disdain of the rest of the continent.” Oliver Kay adopts a slightly more reasoned position arguing “{Chelsea] went too far in expressing their grievances, of which they have not heard the last, but a sense of injustice was inevitable after Chelsea had done everything right over the course of the tie.”

In his first article, Sam Wallace continues the criticism of Chelsea’s post-match antics. “The scenes at the end of the match were an utter embarrassment. Didier Drogba’s pursuit of the Norwegian referee, his ‘fucking disgrace’ bellowed down the barrel of the Sky Sports cameras was beyond the pale and Guus Hiddink’s refusal to condemn his player did him no credit either. This was Drogba’s bonkers moment, he was a mad-man in flip-flops, whose post-match explosion should earn him a Uefa ban.”

In his second piece, Sam Wallace rips into Leo Messi’s performance. “There were times when the man who was supposed to underline his superb credentials resembled not so much a footballer of supreme destiny but the orphan of an extremely hard fate.” Amazingly, Michael Essien is also subjected to personal criticism from Mark Fleming. “Ultimately it was his slip which cost his team the tie. He should have done better with a clearance deep into stoppage time, and Andres Iniesta pounced to bring the game to its amazing end.”

Sid Lowe sidesteps all the acrimony to begin salivating over the Champions League final. “Could any side other than Barcelona deny United their right to the tag of favourites? If the European Cup final is supposed to be between Europe’s best two clubs, this is the right pairing.” Gabriele Marcotti follows suiting lauding “these are two of the four best-supported sides in the world… these clubs boast the two best players in the world, both of whom are in the prime of their careers. Just as important, these are two teams who radiate entertainment, the two highest-scoring sides in the competition.”

Martin Samuel also looks forward to the final. “The best teams in Europe are in the final. Placing this one match to the side for a moment, it cannot be denied that over the campaign Manchester United and Barcelona are the clubs that deserve to be going to Rome. If they both arrive in the right spirit — and Barcelona at least know no other way but to attack — this could be a classic.”

What should Wenger do? The Professor continues to receive unwanted pearls of wisdom from the nation’s scribes.

Lawrence Donegan claims “Wenger faces the taxing problem of trying to get the best price he can for Emmanuel Adebayor, persuading Cesc Fabregas that his future does not belong in Spain and accelerating the development of Kieran Gibbs to the extent that he will find himself at ease in a Champions League semi-final. Wenger will require all his negotiating skills to successfully complete the first two of these tasks, and a miracle to pull off the third.” More advice comes from the pen of Henry Winter writing “when Wenger goes shopping in the summer, he must target leaders and commanding defenders with Fulham’s Brede Hangeland and Everton’s Joleon Lescott top of the list. Wenger would love to work with the huge potential of Lescott’s club-mate, Jack Rodwell, but such a gem would surely be impossible to prise from Goodison Park.”

Jingoistically, John Ley bleats “Arsene Wenger has to get hold of his template, rip it up and start again.” While Sam Wallace completes the discussion claiming Wenger’s back-room staff are at fault. “Wenger has stuck with Pat Rice and Boro Primorac, an old managerial peer from his days in France, and while these are evidently two venerable servants of the club, would the Arsenal manager not benefit from such fresh input? He is ever willing to give a chance to the youngest players in his squad, how about doing the same among his backroom staff?”

Paul Rees expresses his upset at the hoards of Arsenal fans who left their semi-final early. “United’s desire and fight is also a quality for which the Arsenal fans should have remained to express their admiration… They should have stayed to the bitter end to mark Arsenal’s darned good achievement in getting this far, and pay tribute to what, over two legs, was a very good United display.”

Away from the Champions League, the big British news that “the Government is demanding a radical overhaul of English football finances to break the domination of the ‘big four’ clubs… [Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary] wants the league’s £1 billion revenue from television and sponsorship rights to be shared out more evenly among its 20 clubs. He also wants smaller squads and compulsory quotas of English players in team line-ups.”

Oliver Kay is quick to comment on Mt Burnham’s proposal that “any regulation designed purely to prevent their domination would be an artificial measure.”

In other news, Brian Moore celebrates Robbie Savage’s performance as a commentator for BBC Radio 5. “He added colour and insight and was not afraid to be direct about fellow professionals when he thought it was justified. Surely it will not be long before he takes his place in the BBC’s Match of the Day panel.”

There are slim-pickings in the way of transfer gossip this Thursday.

The Sun report that “Benfica want Liverpool keeper Diego Cavalieri and are trying to persuade Rafa Benitez to let him go on loan next season.” But is left to the Daily Mirror to push out the main transfer lies including Alan Nixon’s article claiming “Everton boss David Moyes is ready to win the £6 million race for Cardiff City’s Welsh international star Joe Ledley – and rush through a quick deal.” The Mirror also print “Liverpool kid Adam Hammill is a target for West Brom, Bolton and Wolves,” while James Nursey prints “Derby have slapped a staggering £5million price tag on Wigan target Kris Commons.”