Pitchside

Referee admits errors as Berbatov shown to be offside for all three Monaco goals

Pitchside

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Monaco's 3-2 Ligue 1 win at Lyon on Sunday was in most respects a great advert for the French game, with goals and two good teams playing entertaining football, but the match will be best remembered for some controversial refereeing decisions and an honest admission of guilt by the man in the middle.

Referee Fredy Fautrel would later accept that the game had been tarnished because all three Monaco goals could have been disallowed for offside against Dimitar Berbatov.

A week after scoring for the first time in Ligue 1 in the 2-1 win against Sochaux, the Bulgarian provided two assists before netting his team's decisive third goal at the Stade de Gerland. Few at the time saw that he could have been flagged offside in the build-up to Monaco's opener, which was scored by Valère Germain, but Lyon were left raging at what followed.

The far-side assistant referee failed to spot that Berbatov was offside when he touched the ball into the path of James Rodríguez for Monaco's second goal, and after Jimmy Briand got one back, the other assistant was guilty of playing Berbatov onside as he ran through to score early in the second half.

You didn't need the replay to see that the striker was at least a yard ahead of the last defender when he was played in by James, and Lyon coach Rémi Garde was understandably furious on the touchline.

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Lyon managed to get another goal back through Briand but the damage had been done as they fell to a first home defeat since August. It was a result that could have serious consequences for OL in their quest to snatch a top-three finish and Champions League qualification, so Garde and president Jean-Michel Aulas were forced to bite their tongues after the match.

"I am not going to talk about it because I risk getting a suspension," said Garde, although he did admit that he had gone to see Fautrel at half-time. "I kept my calm - because sometimes I can get angry - but dialogue is always difficult."

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Garde (right) can barely hide his contempt for Fautrel (left)

Aulas is not usually slow to speak out against referees and he has been critical of the 42-year-old Fautrel in the past, but he refused to go over the top on Sunday, preferring instead to call for extra help to be given to officials.

"It is rare to have three errors of judgement in the same match but we know that referees work in difficult conditions. It is not an easy job. With video help there would be no more debate," he told Canal Plus.

Referees do not usually face the media and admit to their mistakes, but to be fair to Fautrel he did come clean, accepting that he and his assistants had experienced a bad day at the office in front of the television cameras.

"We have realised that errors of judgement were made by the officials. It's more than damaging," he said. "It is always difficult to take decisions like these. It leads to frustration and to reactions from others and changes the context of the match. We have seen the images again. I have other bad memories but this has been a really bad day for me and my two colleagues."

Indeed, it has been a very bad week for French refereeing, after Stéphane Lannoy's performance in Barcelona's Champions League win against Manchester City on Wednesday was widely called into question.

In that game, the 44-year-old Lannoy appeared to get several big calls wrong, including unjustly disallowing a Neymar goal. There will be no French referees present at this year's World Cup, and as Vincent Duluc wrote in sports daily L'Equipe: "It is impossible not to feel relieved at that idea."

Sunday's defeat and the nature of it would not have appeared quite as bad if OL were not still desperately trying to close the gap on the sides above them in the race for European qualification. None of the sides around them won over the weekend, but Lyon are eight points off third-placed Lille and three behind Saint-Etienne, who they host in the Rhône derby in two weeks time.

Monaco - whose coach Claudio Ranieri would only admit that "it's very difficult" when asked about the offside controversies - are still eight points behind Paris Saint-Germain but their grip on the second automatic Champions League qualifying berth appears even more secure, with the gap down to Lille nine points.

By Andrew Scott - on Twitter @andpscott

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