Pitchside

‘Phantom goal’ debate rumbles on in Germany

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As us scribes can confirm, making mistakes in public is not much fun. Dr Felix Brych was reminded of that last Friday when he allowed a so-called 'phantom goal' to stand in the Bundesliga match between Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen.

You will have seen it by now. With 20 minutes remaining and visitors Leverkusen leading 1-0, Stefan Kiessling headed narrowly wide from a corner. The Leverkusen striker held his head in his hands after coming so close but the ball snuck into the goal via a hole in the side-netting.

Situated on the far side of the action, the majority of the players assumed it was a goal and, as a result, Hoffenheim never really kicked up a fuss. So it is somewhat understandable that Brych got it wrong.

“I had a little doubt but the reaction of the players was clear,” he told Sky. “There was no indication that there was anything wrong with the goal so that’s why I gave it.”

Brych had been ideally placed behind Kiessling but following a brief investigation he still saw no reason not to award a goal.

“Stefan Kiessling and I had an exchange. But no one, himself included, said to me that it wasn’t a goal. The ball was lying in the net and for everyone on the pitch it was a normal goal.”

With Leverkusen going on to win 2-1, calls to introduce video technology were plentiful afterwards. As Hoffenheim manager Markus Gisdol so memorably put it: "We’re not in the fifth century anymore."

Kiessling’s strike brought to mind another bizarre goal that never was – Thomas Helmer’s one-yard effort for Bayern Munich against Nuremburg in 1994. The goal was given after Helmer bundled the ball wide from a corner. The German FA granted a replay, which Bayern duly won 5-0.

Following the latest incident, Brych received support from former top-flight referee Dr Markus Merk (the Bundesliga seems to specialise in refs with doctorates).

“I have always been in favour of justice in football,” he said. “For me there can be only one decision: a replay.”

Brych was named referee of the year in Germany last season and on Tuesday Merk urged authorities to throw him straight back into Bundesliga action.

“One mistake should never overshadow the achievements of a sportsman over many years,” he told Abendzeitung Munchen.

There did not seem to be too much sympathy for Kiessling, who told Brych that he hadn’t seen his goal clearly.

To his credit, the 29-year-old let fans have their say on his Facebook page, promising that he was up for a “fair exchange”. But he was soon forced to delete some vulgar comments.

The feedback was such that by Tuesday Leverkusen decided to post a video interview with Kiessing on the club website.

“For me it’s very important that in the stadium 30,000 people didn’t see it,” he said of his ‘goal’. “And I was one of them. The criticism that was aimed at me over the past two days was very hard, because people accused me of having seen it and say that I should have told the referee.

“I think people know that if that were the case, that if I’d known there was a hole that the ball went into the goal through, then I would have been the last person not to say something about that stupid hole in the net.”

On Monday, the German Football Federation will decide whether to order a replay. Perhaps Brych can advise them - his doctorate is in law after all.

But the beauty of football is that the games keep coming - for players and officials.

On Wednesday Kiessling scored twice in Leverkusen’s win over Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. His first goal was, inevitably, a header that this time hit the right side of the side-netting.

Brych, meanwhile, was the man in the middle for the meeting of AC Milan and Barcelona in Italy.

As for the infamous netting? Well, Hoffenheim have donated all 100 euros (£85) worth of it to a children’s charity. It will be auctioned on TV in December.

Mark Rodden - @mrodden

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