The Champions League group stage never fails to deliver decidedly mediocre matches. While Chelsea were dominant formuch of the first half, during the second they sat on their 2-0 lead and Marseille had a lot of possession, a few shots and zero penetration. A boring match, but what else would you expect? And what else would you expect from Frank de Bleeckere apart from the solid and polished performance he delivered.
This match was very easy for aman of Frank's calibre. He seems to have adjusted his positioning well to make best use of the Additional Assistants, although once again these men seemed utterly pointless (but that's another story). He covered a lot of ground in this match and was always close enough to the action.
I am continually impressed by de Bleeckere's reading of the game. This was exemplified by an incident in the 82nd minute when de Bleeckere gave Marseille a free kick. John Obi Mikel refused to let the French team have the ball, and two of the Marseille men squared up to Obi Mikel. Before you could blink de Bleeckere was in amongst them, showing a deserved yellow to Obi Mikel and diffusing the situation. Great match management in a situation that could have escalated if the referee had not been on the ball.
The only bone of contention is the 28th minute penalty FdB gave for handball when a pass from Essien his Mbia's arm. My initial reaction was 'penalty', and so was de Bleeckere'sas he pointed to the spot immediately. I agree with the decision, but can appreciate arguments the other way. My view is that because Mbia is jumping and swinging his arms, neither he nor his arms are in a natural position. As such the contact between ball and arm is not incidental. That is to say, if Mbia had not started to jump and move his arms then the ball would not have hit his arm, so the handball should be considered deliberate and not accidental. As I stated, I can sympathise with the opposite view - it is one of those decisions where I think either outcome could be correct and neither is wrong. In these situations the referees must follow their instinct and we should not criticise.