If Alex Ferguson genuinely feels, in the wake of his side's defeat to Arsenal, that "we're not going to get the decisions in these big games", then he would have been apoplectic - or more apoplectic than usual - had he been in Harry Redknapp's shoes at Stamford Bridge. There's little point in dwelling on two goals that should not have stood. The second was a wrong call, but at least understandably wrong. The first was simply a fiasco, the most glaring error in an inept display of officiating by the referee and his assistants. How Andre Marriner could book Pavlyuchenko for an innocuous clip on the heels of Michael Essien and yet allow John Terry to commit a series of deliberate, cynical fouls is a question that only he can answer. Terry is so lacking in pace that he is constantly pulling back opponents, to the extent that this - along with his idiotic chest thumping - has become the most notable feature of his game. It took until midway through the second half for Marriner to finally produce the yellow card.
In contrast to Sir Alex, Harry was his usual avuncular self when asked about the decisions that proved critical in the game:
"The linesmen don't make mistakes on purpose, they did what they thought were right decisions, but unfortunately today they got them wrong. I look at the bigger picture and what the future is for this club - it can't take a backward step now and we have to keep moving forward. We're starting to be up there with the best of them. The club can't say 'we haven't made the Champions League' and pull up stumps and throw in the towel. The future is fantastic, there are some great players and with the addition of one or two in the summer I think we can win the championship eventually."
The sporting mixed metaphor is marvelous, although Harry could have gone for the trifecta with another apposite phrase, namely "pipped at the post". His comments about the future of the club may well indicate that deep down he knows that Champions League qualification is already gone, at least realistically if not yet mathematically. Man City's win over West Ham was almost certainly the final nail in that particular coffin. Apparently some of the players had already accepted that fate, judging by the effort they put in against Chelsea on Saturday. While Modric and Sandro harried and hustled in an effort to secure a vital three points, Lennon, van der Vaart and Pavlyuchenko appeared to lack the required sense of urgency. The latter two were taken off in the second half, yet the manager seemed to reserve most of his ire for the outstanding Sandro, right after the young Brazilian had scored one of the goals of the season. Let's hope that Harry is equally quick to take some of the more senior players to task when the occasion demands it.
Whether or not some of those players are still at White Hart Lane next season remains to be seen. What does now seem clear is that they will not be turning out in the Champions League.
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