Chelsea vs Barcelona ref Ovrebo admitted he wished VAR was in use in 2009

  • Rob Swan
‘I wish I had VAR that day’ - Chelsea v Barcelona ended Tom Henning Ovrebo’s refereeing career

May 6, 2022, marks the 13th anniversary of Tom Henning Ovrebo’s infamous refereeing display during the Champions League semi-final second leg clash between Chelsea and Barcelona.

The Norwegian match official’s reputation and career as a top-level ref was left in tatters following that ill-fated evening at Stamford Bridge.

Mention Ovrebo’s name and Chelsea fans will still break out in a cold sweat all these years later.

Why were Chelsea so angry with Tom Henning Ovrebo?

The night began so well for Chelsea, who were aiming to make back-to-back Champions League finals against Manchester United.

The 2008 finalists took the lead in the ninth minute through a sensational Michael Essien goal but then had a series of penalty appeals waved away by Ovrebo.

Eric Abidal was sent off with 25 minutes left to play, making Barça’s task for the night even harder, and Chelsea knew that one more goal would kill the tie.

When Ovrebo waved away another penalty appeal following a clear handball inside the box by Gerard Pique, everyone associated with Chelsea were left fuming.

Gerard Pique handball Chelsea Barcelona

Then, in stoppage time, Andres Iniesta scored one of the most famous goals in Champions League history from Lionel Messi’s pass.

But there was still time for Ovrebo to wave away one final penalty appeal when Michael Ballack’s shot was blocked by the arm of Samuel Eto’o.

Michael Ballack chases Tom Henning Ovrebo

Cue pandemonium.

The chaotic scenes of a furious Ballack chasing Ovrebo around the pitch followed by Didier Drogba screaming down a TV camera: ‘“It’s a disgrace! It’s a f****** disgrace!” will never be forgotten by all those who witnessed the drama unfold.

How was Chelsea punished after Barcelona match in 2009?

Drogba was handed a six-match ban for his foul-mouthed rant, Jose Bosingwa was suspended for four matches after labelling the referee a “thief”, while Chelsea were slapped with an £85,000 fine for “improper conduct of their players and the throwing of missiles by their supporters”.

Chelsea’s manager at the time, Guus Hiddink, said his team had been ‘robbed’ and called the result an ‘injustice’.

“Players make many mistakes, coaches make mistakes, referees make mistakes – that’s why we speak about giving them the benefit of the doubt,” the Dutch coach said.

“But if you have seen three or four situations waved away, then [Ovrebo’s performance] was the worst I have seen.”

Guus Hiddink, Chelsea v Barcelona, 2009
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 06: Caretaker manager of Chelsea Guus Hiddink gestures during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg match between Chelsea and Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on May 6, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

What has Tom Henning Ovrebo said about Chelsea vs Barcelona?

Speaking 10 years after the worst night of his career, Ovrebo told Panenka magazine: “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’.”

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.”

Tom Henning Ovrebo, Chelsea v Barcelona 2009
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 06: Referee Tom Henning Ovrebo makes a decision during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg match between Chelsea and Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on May 6, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

What about his decision to dismiss so many of Chelsea’s penalty appeals?

Speaking to the Daily Mail this week, Ovrebo said: “I don’t think the Chelsea supporters are correct when they claim four of five penalties, but I think everybody that knows football and the laws of the game knows there should have been a penalty given.

“That happens, especially before VAR. Sometimes you miss a penalty, sometimes you miss a red card or a crucial decision. And I think everybody that knows football knows there should have been a penalty.

“They can speculate themselves which ones should have been a penalty. I will not give you a correct answer on that because I don’t have the correct answer, I just have my perception of it.”

Ovrebo previously admitted the game contributed towards the end of his reputation as a top-level referee.

“When the Champions League continued in August of 2009, I didn’t get the matches at the same standard again,” he told Goal.

“Step-by-step, I got good matches and, in 2010, we got Bayern Munich versus Fiorentina. But, unfortunately, we missed a clear offside.

“So, then, you had two matches in which my team and I had not performed very well.

“After that match I didn’t get any more in the Champions League but I continued to referee in the national league in Norway.

“Unfortunately, I got injured in 2012. I tried to make a comeback but I had to stop in 2013.”

What does Tom Henning Ovrebo do now?

For those wondering what Ovrebo does now, he went on to become a psychologist after studying the subject while at university during his younger years and works at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences.

Despite all of the abuse, the Norwegian insists he still looks back fondly on his refereeing career.

“My motto in my life is that ‘It is better to get bullied than for people to forget you’, so I think that the fans can continue bullying me if they want to; for me, that is no problem,” he added.

“I look back at my matches with great memories. It is no problem if people want to use that match as an example [of bad refereeing]; that’s okay with me.”

Ovrebo Barcelona Chelsea
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 06: Samuel Eto’o of Barcelona and his team mates argues with referee Tom Henning Ovrebo after Eric Abidal of Barcelona received a red card during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg match between Chelsea and Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on May 6, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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