If I were a Villa supporter I’d be standing at the office water cooler right now and telling all the interns about how referee Kevin Friend screwed us last night.
There’s simply no other way to look at it.
Branislav Ivanovic’s 71st minute elbow swipe on Christian Benteke should have been a straight red card. The intent was disgusting and the blow was significant.
If Ivanovic had connected with Benteke’s face like he meant, they’d be chopping down trees for journos to write about the broken bones in ‘Tekers’ face.
The failure to issue Ivanovic his marching orders changed the game and denied Villa a share of the points.
Two minutes after the elbow incident Ivanovic went on to smash a sensational header that, as my astute colleague Adrienne was quick to point out, was quite similar to his goal in the Europa League final.
Of course it would never have happened had Friend simply sent Ivanovic for an early bath.
The irony of the Ivanovic situation is mind-blowing.
Last April, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez infamously bit Ivanovic’s arm during the Reds match at Stamford Bridge. Suarez was spared being sent off because the ref failed to see the incident. The Uruguayan then went on to score in the seventh minute of injury time to secure his side a 2-2 draw.
The referee that day?
None other than our good buddy, Mr. Friend. You can’t make this stuff up.
Back to yesterday’s match. It wasn’t just that Friend allowed Ivanovic to stay on and claim the winner – it’s that the man in black also failed to whistle the Chelsea defender for being offsides on the goal.
It should never have counted.
Finally, there was the handball by Big Country John Terry. As Robbie Mustoe noted in NBCSN’s post-match analysis, it was “an unnatural position” for the arm to be in and should’ve been a penalty.
A dissenter could argue that the incident was less likely to be called because it was late in the match, but that logic still admits the fact that it was a penalty. A dissenter could also argue that Terry’s arm was only in the high-five position because he was fouled. If that was the case, then Friend should’ve called the foul.
The most troubling thing about the missed hand-ball call is that Friend was literally 10 feet away and looking directly at the play when it happened. That’s a penalty every day of the week and twice on Tuesday.
Kevin Friend screwed Villa. And they deserved better.