Wenger slams ref for ‘massive mistake’

ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger accused referee Martin Hansson of a “massive mistake” in his side’s 2-1 defeat to Porto last night.

Wenger was furious that Hansson awarded Porto an indirect free-kick after Lukasz Fabianski picked up Sol Campbell’s back-pass.

And the official then appeared to get in Campbell’s way as Porto were allowed to take a quick free-kick to score their second goal.

“I believe it (the back-pass) was accidental, Sol touched it accidentally,” Wenger said. “And the referee should give us time to build the wall.”

Asked if Porto should have been allowed to act so quickly, Wenger added: “Yes, in the middle of the field, but not in the box. We had no chance to defend.

“I think it was a massive mistake, it was a double mistake. It was a penalty for us as well when (Tomas) Rosicky went down just before.

“I just believe in a game of that magnitude... I don’t understand his decision.”

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas conceded he might well have taken a quick free-kick under the same circumstances.

“Maybe as a player I would have done the same to try to score,” he said.

And the Spaniard admitted the Gunners also had themselves to blame.

“When you concede these goals you cannot go anywhere, schoolboy goals, what can you do?” he added.

“Maybe we are still a little soft in that aspect, as a team when we concede we are not strong enough to lift ourselves, we were not strong enough to stand up and play well.”

In the end, though, it was Fabianski’s costly blunders that leave Arsenal trailing going back to the Emirates in two weeks time.

The Polish goalkeeper, deputising for the injured Manuel Almunia, was caught out of position to gift Porto an early lead, before then picking up the back-pass which led to the second.

However, Campbell’s header which had levelled at 1-1 could yet prove to be crucial when the teams return to London.

Wenger had warned Porto were no European novices, the Portuguese side having consistently qualified for the elite club competition they won under Jose Mourinho in 2004. They were beaten by Manchester United in last season’s quarter-final.

Porto, who lost to Chelsea in the group stages, almost got off to a dream start.

Hulk, serving a domestic ban following an altercation with a steward after a match against Benfica, cut in from the left before feeding Ruben Micael whose effort was blocked by Thomas Vermaelen.

Brazil striker Hulk then fired wide after another quick passing move, this time down the right channel.

At the other end, Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas almost got clear, but Porto skipper Bruno Alves made a saving tackle in the six-yard box.

A terrible mistake from Fabianski gifted Porto the lead after 11 minutes.

The goalkeeper looked anything but comfortable in the recent FA Cup defeat at Stoke, and got his angles all wrong this time as a low right-wing cross from Silvestre Varela caught him too far forwards, deflected off his diving body and rolled over the line.

It was an almighty setback for the injury-hit Gunners, who had recovered well after a shaky start.

Arsenal, though, soon went on the offensive, as Nicklas Bendtner’s near-post cross was cut out.

The Dane’s 20-yard effort was then deflected behind for a corner, from which Arsenal drew level in the 16th minute.

Vermaelen flicked Samir Nasri’s delivery from the left over to the far post, where Tomas Rosicky nodded it back into the six-yard box and veteran Campbell powered a header into the roof of the net for his first Arsenal goal since the 2006 Champions League final.

Fabianski went some way to redeeming himself with a flying save to keep out a 25-yard angled drive from Micael on 29 minutes.

Arsenal started the second half well, with Rosicky looking positive down the right and having a decent shout for a penalty turned down when he seemed to be tripped.

However, disaster struck after 51 minutes following another blunder by Fabianski.

The goalkeeper contrived to pick up a back-pass from Campbell just inside the penalty area, and after realising his mistake, threw the ball to referee Hansson.

With Campbell still complaining at the decision, Porto took the free-kick immediately – which Micael quickly tapped to Falcao for the Colombian to roll the ball into an empty net.

Wenger was left fuming on the touchline, as once again his young side were forced to drag themselves back into the game – a task which was ultimately beyond them.


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