Goals are flowing but Uefa have some official concerns

Fifty-five goals in 12 games is a goal glut by any standards, including the Champions League, and there is a strong chance that trend will continue tonight, and especially tomorrow in Monaco. 
Goals are flowing but Uefa have some official concerns

Europe’s top leagues average between 2.5 and 3 goals a game over a season. The Premier League record for a single weekend stands at 43 in 10 games. So an average of 4.6 is exceptional, even over 12 matches.

This is a freak run of results. We’ll no doubt be back to one-goal matches before long, and they’re an essential part of football’s unique quality. Goals are precious.

But this has been a brilliant round of matches for neutrals: Barcelona’s historic comeback against Paris Saint-Germain; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s hat-trick for Borussia Dortmund against Benfica; Atletico Madrid’s onslaught against Bayer Leverkusen; and the eight-goal frenzy between Manchester City and Monaco, with the return leg to come.

Games have flowed, attacking football rewarded: both counter- attacking and possession play.

Some sides seem to have abandoned the idea of defending, but the goals have been spread around and there have been some epic encounters.

Napoli might have produced as big a shock as Barcelona had they taken their chances against Real Madrid.

The downside is a couple of inept performances by match officials which had an impact on Arsenal’s comeback attempt against Bayern Munich and which effectively scuppered PSG’s fight for survival at Camp Nou.

It would be harsh to be overcritical of Anastasios Sidiropoulos, the referee in the Arsenal-Bayern game. He got most of his decisions right, except the crucial one where he substituted red for yellow and sent off Koscielny.

Unfortunately, he also had a bad experience on his previous appearance in England in 2014, a group stage match between Manchester City and CSKA Moscow. His second Champions League game turned into a nightmare.

Fernandinho and Yaya Toure were both dismissed, Fernandinho after simply turning his back on an opponent.

Sidiripoulos also mistakenly booked CSKA’s Sergei Ignashevich instead of his team-mate Pontus Wernbloom who had already been booked and should have been sent off.

German referee Deniz Aytekin, who was in charge of Barcelona-PSG, has also had his share of troubles.

Only seven Bundesliga matches have ever been abandoned, but two minutes from the end of St Pauli-Schalke in April 2011 Aytekin called a halt after his assistant was struck by a plastic cup filled with beer.

The match was on a knife-edge from the third minute, when a St Pauli player could have been sent off, and exploded after the assistant ruled out an equaliser by the home side.

Two years ago Aytekin was again in the firing line when Montenegro met Russia in Podgorica.

Play was suspended for half an hour early on because of crowd violence, the start of the second-half was then delayed by 18 minutes, and the game was finally abandoned after 67 minutes.

Last week Barcelona produced a fantastic show against PSG, but it was a performance marred by theatrics from Luis Suarez and Neymar which were eventually rewarded not penalised.

PSG were poor and lacked leadership but Aytekin’s errors affected them, including a penalty for PSG five minutes from time that should have been given and wasn’t.

Both Sidiropoulos and Aytekin have been fast-tracked. The worry for Pierluigi Collina, Uefa’s man in charge of referees, is in promoting a new generation of referees you always run the risk of serious errors in big games.

No surprise then the officials in Monaco tomorrow night are an all-Italian team headed by the experienced Gianluca Rocchi. Collina will still have his fingers crossed.

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Saturday, November 27, 2021

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