English game heading into fresh Chelsea crisis

LONDON: The English Football Association was waiting to receive an official complaint from Chelsea on Monday after the club accused referee Mark Clattenburg of verbally abusing two of its players in Sunday’s defeat by Manchester United.

When it arrives, it is likely to plunge English football, which is only just recovering from one damaging race row surrounding Chelsea captain John Terry, straight back into a new one involving the European champions.

Chelsea said Clattenburg, who sent off two home players – Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres – in the highly-charged 3-2 Stamford Bridge defeat, used “inappropriate language” towards two players.

The club would not name the players in question or of what nature the remarks were, but a spokesman refused to deny that midfielder John Obi Mikel had visited the referee’s room after the game.

Mikel was booked for dissent in the second half.

Chelsea’s decision to lodge a complaint against the FIFA-listed referee is largely unprecedented.

Clattenburg not only sent off two players but the officials rubbed salt into Chelsea’s wounds by allowing Javier Hernandez’s 75th minute goal that swung the outcome United’s way to stand, even though he was marginally offside.

The referee has yet to comment but the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMO), which manages top English referees, said in a statement that Chelsea’s allegations were “being treated with the utmost seriousness”.

Clattenburg will co-operate fully and “welcomes the opportunity for the facts to be established,” it added.

A number of Monday’s British newspapers simply had the headline “Accused” on their back pages.

Clattenburg, no stranger to controversy, was criticised by Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo for “ruining” the match.

While Ivanovic could have few complaints after accidentally impeding Ashley Young when the winger was through on goal, the decision to show Torres a second yellow for diving sparked outrage on and off the pitch as he appeared to be clipped.

“We must be disappointed that key decisions were wrong,” Di Matteo told reporters.

“At 2-2, we looked like the team that was going to win the game. It was a good game between good teams and the official ruined it.”

Juan Mata described his compatriot’s sending-off as “incomprehensible”.

Despite the loss, Chelsea still top the table with 22 points, one ahead of Manchester clubs, United and City. (Reuters)