Van Persie, Arsenal deserved better
By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Arsenal was outclassed against Barcelona on Tuesday, so why referee Massimo Busacca comically sent off Robin van Persie for essentially no other reason than the fact he could, did the English side no favors.
At the end of the day, Barca was clearly the better side, as holding more than three-quarters of possession, denying Arsenal a single shot, and providing the visitors' lone goal at the Camp Nou sums up well.
It doesn't hurt to have Lionel Messi - who scored a brilliant goal late in the opening half when he lifted the ball over Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia to set up his own volley into an empty net - either.
Messi added Barca's third goal as well one minute after Xavi put the Catalans in front. Both goals occurred after Van Persie was sent off, and Barca went on to win the second leg, 3-1, advancing on aggregate, 4-3.
But who doesn't want to know how the game might have finished with Van Persie, who received his second yellow card 10 minutes after half for time wasting, on the field instead of in the locker room?
Van Persie earned his second card - and the ejection - for taking a shot after he was ruled offside. Obviously, the Netherlands international should have had no problem hearing the whistle in the packed 95,000-seat stadium.
Robin van Persie received two yellow cards in 10 minutes against Barcelona on Tuesday.
At least according to Busacca. Ridiculous.
"It was a total joke," Van Persie told Sky Sports.
Busacca could have just issued a verbal warning to Van Persie, who quickly put his hands to his ears to plead he couldn't hear the whistle. Heck, he could've just added one second, the exact time from the whistle to Van Persie's shot.
"If there were four, five, six seconds in between, you can make a check [for offside]," Van Persie added. "One second, it's a joke."
Instead, Busacca felt it was necessary to stop the fixture and send Van Persie off. It's surprising he didn't send himself off after that. After all, he just wasted a few more seconds to send Van Persie off.
Sure, Van Persie was stupid for putting a hand to Dani Alves' face to earn his first yellow, but he should've never been sent off in such in huge match under such ridiculous circumstances.
"When it was 1-1, it was all to play for, and in my opinion the ref killed the game," said Van Persie, whose side tied the match three minutes before he was sent off on an own goal that also put the Gunners in front on aggregate, 3-2.
At almost the same time across the European continent, Roma's Daniele De Rossi drilled Shakhtar Donetsk's Darijo Srna in the chin with a deliberate elbow, but because referee Howard Webb missed the incident, he wasn't punished at all.
Luckily, Shakhtar provided plenty of punishment for Roma, taking the second leg 3-0 to win the series on aggregate, 6-2.
But in Spain, Arsenal wasn't as lucky. The Camp Nou looked like a one-way road in the first half and, after Van Persie was sent off, the traffic picked up in front of Almunia - who made a number of huge saves.
Defending Barcelona at full strength is nearly impossible, let alone with just 10 players. But yet again, a referee has left the result of a game in question for, really, no other reason than the fact he could.
Arsenal may have never found its rhythm against Barcelona. Perhaps the Gunners would have allowed a few more goals and been eliminated anyway. But recall the first leg, when Barca was the better side for most of the game.
Arsenal settled down in the second half, and two late goals - including one by Van Persie - gave the Gunners a 2-1 lead after the first leg. Who knows, maybe history would have repeated itself Tuesday.
Thanks to Busacca, we'll never know.