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10 most controversial football matches of all time

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Michael Ballack argues with the referee during the 2009 Champions League semi-final

It is inevitable that in football, human errors contribute to matches being won or lost. Shots will be missed, passes will be misplaced and errors will be made within those ninety plus minutes.

However, there is nothing as irritating and disappointing for any football fan when decisions are made against their team, or unusual circumstances arise that should have never happened in the first place. 

And thus, controversy ensues, helped by the mere fact that players, coaches and even fans think and know that every single call should have gone their way, especially if it’s something that could have helped their team. Any given game has moments where one side or the other feel that they have been cheated somehow.

But nothing manages to evoke as much criticism or even passion when talked about as these games continue to be debated and talked about till date, memories fresh in the mind of those who witnessed it first hand and from those who managed to find a youtube video or two about the match itself!

#10 Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal (24/10/2004)

One of the most aggressive games in Premier League history

For a few years on either side of the millennium, Arsenal’s intense rivalry with Manchester United was well known and one of the fiercest in English football, thanks to both Sir Alex and Arsene Wenger. This showdown, however, was dubbed as the ‘Battle of Old Trafford Mark II’, after the events of the previous season. A year later and the battle was as physical, feisty encounter as it’s predecessor.

Jose Antonio Reyes took the brunt of the tackles and both the Neville brothers were booked for rather robust challenges on the Spaniard, but Arsenal matched United tackle for tackle and Cristiano Ronaldo was made a target more than a few times by the Arsenal players. The game changed after the 73rd minute after Rooney went down in the box under a Sol Campbell “challenge”.

Nistelrooy stepped up and made no mistake this time before Rooney sealed three points with a simple tap in. While the match had its share of incidents, it was post match that had the drama. After the game, the players were walking back through the tunnel when suddenly everything erupted. It soon turned into a fully fledged food fight between the teams and both the managers got into intense verbal fights, with it only ending after a slice of pizza hit Sir Alex Ferguson in the face!!

Wenger was later fined £ 15,000, while Van Nistelrooy was given a three-match ban for the tackle on Ashley Cole and the FA called both teams together for a meeting, to make sure this incident was never repeated.


#9 Juventus vs Roma 3-2 10/5/14

Roma and Juventus players clash during the game

A more recent encounter, Roma battled Juventus at the Juventus Stadium and it turned out to be a rather dramatic game. Five goals were scored with three of them coming from the spot, as referee Gianluca Rocchi grabbed the headlines for controversial decisions. He awarded three penalties, out of which only one was a clear penalty and sent two players off.

The first penalty came for Juventus after Pirlo’s free-kick hit Maicon’s hand outside the box but after much convincing, the referee changed his decision to a spot-kick. Despite protests by the Roma players, the penalty stood and Carlos Tevez scored. Roma got their own chance from the spot, a mere three minutes later, and Totti made no mistake. He was booked for his extended celebration and Bonucci was booked for trying to stop the Roma players from celebrating!!

Roma scored again and took the lead for the first time through Iturbe, but it was Rocchi at work again. He awarded another penalty to Bianconeri after Pogba was brought down outside the box. Tevez stepped up again and made no mistake before Bonucci’s volley sealed the victory. But the drama over yet, as Morata who had been tackled perfectly by Kostas Manolas, time after time, decided to try his hand at a slide tackle on the defender.

It went as well as a striker’s tackle could have gone, badly i.e., before Manolas got up and shoved Morata who repeated the favour. A fight soon broke out between the two players and it took Max Allegri to separate them. But the game was over for both the striker and the defender as Rocchi walked over and gave the two players their marching orders!!

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