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Saturday, Oct. 21, 2006

PREMIER REPORT

Mourinho showing signs of double vision in Cech incident


LONDON -- The problem with Jose Mourinho is that as a manager the Chelsea boss makes a lousy witness.

Christopher Davies

Two seasons ago, Mourinho wrote in his column in Portuguese newspaper Record Des that he saw Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard enter the dressing room of referee Anders Frisk during a Champions League game at Nou Camp.

A complaint was made to UEFA which could not find anyone to back up Mourinho's claim.

Two Chelsea witnesses tried to corroborate Mourinho's allegation but the weakness in their argument was that from their vantage point it was impossible to see the area by the referee's dressing room.

Mourinho was banned for two games by UEFA, and this week the Chelsea manager has been branded a liar by Reading for his version of events in the wake of the depressed skull fracture sustained by goalkeeper Petr Cech, after a collision with Reading winger Stephen Hunt.

While this correspondent agrees with Mourinho that Hunt should have been sent off, the Portuguese was way out of line, possibly to the point of slander, when he accused Hunt of deliberately trying to hurt Cech.

Like so many people, Mourinho is not on first-name terms with the laws of the game.

Anyone who discusses whether Hunt -- or any player -- deliberately set out to "get" or "do" an opponent is showing an ignorance of the laws.

For legal reasons, the word "intent" was taken out of the laws (apart from intentional handball), because a referee cannot say what a player's intentions are.

Referee Mike Riley took no action against Hunt, but by the guidelines laid down a red card would have been justified.

A referee should ask whether a player had control over the outcome of his challenge taking into consideration the speed and the angle of the tackle. He should ask whether the safety of the opponent was endangered.

The answers in Hunt's case are surely 'no' and 'yes.'

It is also a significant factor that when the pair clashed Cech was in possession of the ball.

No one apart from possibly Hunt knows if there was any intent but that is irrelevant.

It was still a sending-off offense.

"Hunt clearly flexed his leg to catch Petr," said Mourinho. "He dropped his knee. When the 'keeper has the ball in his hands what are you going to do?

"You are only going in there to hurt him."

If taking legal action against someone was not so expensive, Hunt might be tempted to see the Chelsea manager in court, though the Reading winger wants to draw a line under the incident rather than prolong it.

Mourinho then claimed Cech was in the dressing-room for 30 minutes waiting for an ambulance.

Reading said an ambulance arrived within seven minutes, a version backed up by the ambulance staff on duty.

Mark Ainsworth, the ambulance duty officer, said: "We support Reading with their statement of events."

Cech arrived at the Royal Berkshire Hospital within 26 minutes of it being called, records showed.

Mourinho also claimed: "Cech could not leave the dressing room properly. He had to go in a wheelchair in the lift when he had the injury. He left 30 minutes after my doctor called for an urgent ambulance."

South Central NHS Trust countered: "The removal of the patient was a decision taken by Chelsea. They were offered two routes -- one around the pitch on a stretcher or via a small lift in a wheelchair. Chelsea took the decision to go via a small lift in a wheelchair."

How could a coach who gets it so right so often on the pitch get things so wrong off it?

Mind you, Mourinho would no doubt still insist that Rijkaard DID visit Frisk's dressing room and his version of events at Reading is the correct one.

Chelsea being Chelsea has not backed down -- indeed it will write to the Football Association requesting it look into what happened at Reading.

The club's director of communications, Simon Greenberg said: "We have got several serious questions that we would like the F.A., or the appropriate authority, to look into.

"Those will be submitted to the F.A. along with other questions regarding incidents that took place in the game."

Greenberg added that Chelsea wanted the Cech incident and another that left reserve goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini unconscious, as well as "the medical procedures that were in place . . . looked into."

And Chelsea wondered why everyone in England, apart from those who support the Premiership champion, cheered for Barcelona last Wednesday.

The Blues showed great mental strength to bounce back from the setbacks at Reading to beat Barcelona 1-0, but they were defeated in their efforts to see last Saturday's opponent punished.

The F.A. announced on Thursday it will not take any formal disciplinary action regarding the injuries sustained by Cech and Cudicini, who also had to be stretchered off at Reading.

Having reviewed the circumstances and after contacting referee Mike Riley, who confirmed that the match officials saw both incidents at the time, the F.A. said in a statement: "There will therefore be no further action."

MIKE RILEY, the referee at the center of the Petr Cech controversy, has been taken off Sunday's game between Middlesbrough and Newcastle.

Though Riley escaped with minimal criticism for the incident he was replaced by Martin Atkinson for the Northeast derby at the Riverside.

Riley will apparently be on holiday on Sunday and should not have been appointed to the game in the first place.

Referees can ask for a closed date for personal reasons and usually there is little chance of being given a match under those circumstances, but on this occasion an administrative error saw Riley put in charge of the game at Middlesbrough.

It is understood the match assessors were happy with Riley's display at Reading, where two players (John Obi Mikel of Chelsea and Reading's Andre Bikey), plus two coaches (Rui Faria of Chelsea and Kevin Dillon of Reading) were dismissed.

Inevitably conspiracy theories abound. It does seem the mother of all admin errors that Riley was given an appointment when he had asked for no match, and then it took 48 hours after the refereeing appointments were announced on Monday for the mistake to be spotted and rectified.

To add to the confusion, by then Riley was in Valencia on Champions League duty.

Those of a cynical nature will say Riley has been taken out of the firing line, after the high-profile events of Reading, in the clumsiest of ways.

If it was, as the Premier League said, an administrative oversight, then it has done Riley no favors.

Christopher Davies was a longtime soccer correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.


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