Tom Henning Ovrebo produced ‘the worst refereeing performance ever’ on this day in 2009

  • Rob Swan
Chelsea v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

It’s exactly 11 years since one of the most dramatic Champions League matches in memory.

Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on May 6, 2009, had absolutely everything: great goals, a red card, plenty of anger and, of course, arguably the most infamous refereeing performance we’ve ever seen in the tournament’s history.

Everybody associated with Chelsea Football Club was incensed by Tom Henning Ovrebo’s decision-making on the night.

The Premier League side were convinced they should have been awarded at least two, possibly even three, penalties by the Norwegian official.

Following a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou in the first leg, Chelsea took an early lead in west London thanks to Michael Essien’s sensational left-footed volley in the ninth minute.

Guus Hiddink’s men then had a succession of penalty appeals dismissed by Ovrebo before Andres Iniesta’s famous late strike from the edge of the box sent Barça through to the 2008-09 Champions League final at Chelsea’s expense.

Didier Drogba cut a particularly furious figure at the full-time whistle, screaming down the television cameras: “It’s a disgrace! It’s a f***ing disgrace!”


And when you watch some of the decisions Ovrebo made on the night, you can understand why.

In the 26th minute, Drogba appeared to be fouled inside the box by Eric Abidal.


In the 82nd minute, Gerard Pique handled the ball inside his own area following a flick from Nicolas Anelka.


And deep into stoppage time, after Iniesta’s equaliser, Michael Ballack was left raging when Ovrebo turned down his appeals following a suspected handball by Samuel Eto’o.


You can watch the incidents here…

Hiddink described it as “the worst refereeing performance I’ve ever seen” and this was effectively the end of Ovrebo’s career as an elite-level match official.

He was prevented from going to the 2010 World Cup finals, along with his team, following the Stamford Bridge fiasco.

He also ended his international refereeing career the same year.

While he did continue to officiate in Norway until 2013, his reputation had been permanently damaged.

Speaking about that ill-fated night in 2009, Ovrebo told Panenka magazine last year: “I wish I had the help of the VAR that day.

“After the first half, my assistants and I felt that we had control. At the end of the match, however, I did not have that feeling. When I got to the dressing room I thought: ‘Okay, Tom Henning, this has not been your best night’.”

Chelsea v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

He added: “I must admit that inside I was boiling. It was in the dressing room that I realised how controversial everything had been.

“In the space of two hours, I went from being a fairly respected referee to becoming the biggest fool in international football.

“They put us in police escort until we could get a plane and return home.

“(The death threats) came more from the frustration of not winning that match and my performance in it, than from the real desire to kill me and my family.”

This photo taken on May 20, 2008 shows N

Eleven years later and it’s fair to say that not everyone has forgiven Ovrebo for his refereeing display that night.

But that’s understandable. Victory would have provided Chelsea with the opportunity to exact revenge over Manchester United in the final, having lost to their English rivals in Moscow the previous year.

Still, the Blues finally lifted the European Cup for the first time in 2012, with Drogba playing a starring role in a dramatic penalty shoot-out win against the much-fancied Bayern Munich.

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