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Tottenham Has a Point: Juan Mata’s “Goal” Changed the Outcome Against Chelsea

Just because there exist two points that are in opposition to one another, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Take the case of Juan Mata’s “goal” during yesterday’s FA Cup semifinal between Chelsea and Tottenham. Now, in this case I don’t think anyone is arguing that the goal was legitimate (even the referee who allowed the goal, Martin Atkinson, admits his mistake), but rather how much the poor decision affected the outcome of the match.

Tottenham’s Emmanuel Adebayor has, not surprisingly, insisted that the mistake cost Hotspur the game and, consequently, their “FA Cup dream”; according to this post in The Guardian, his post-match remarks included: “To be honest, we have to blame the referee.” Can’t get much clearer than that.

At the time the goal was allowed, Tottenham was down 1-0 and still playing very defensively. The 2-0 margin, many Tottenham players, coaches, and supporters claim, forced Hotspur to move players forward, changing their strategy and allowing more inroads for Chelsea—thus explaining the three late goals that blew this game wide open.

Others, including Football365’s Sarah Winterburn, are not so convinced by this argument. In her most recent post she argues that “a man made an honest mistake and it almost certainly had no bearing on the eventual outcome of this particular match.”

This assessment, it must be pointed out (for those who don’t click on the links), is couched in the the argument that screams for goal-line technology are trite since the FA and others are already working to implement it. The allowance of this goal is indeed a problem, but the problem is being worked on, so hush up.

So which side is right? Did the change from 1-0 to 2-0 dramatically affect the outcome of this match? (Do I dare cite the goal that was scored, but not allowed, in the Germany-England game in the previous World Cup, and all the debate that ensued about its aftershocks?) Do we really care what happens to Chelsea?

These are all questions that will get debated ad nauseam but will not get definitely answered in the near future, if ever. Hopefully goal-line technology will prevent these kinds of things from happening, but it probably won’t, since referees still have offsides, flopping, and injury time as ready-made weapons with which they can screw up any game they like (USA-Slovenia, anyone?).

But don’t be fooled: the truth doesn’t always lie somewhere in the middle. In this case, a 1-0 game is completely different than a 2-0 game. Tottenham’s players, for all their petulant passing of the buck, have a point. Clearly though, it doesn’t much matter since nothing can be done about it now, and the longer they stew about it, the more likely it is that the Spurs’ downward spiral will continue.