Juventus' win marred by refereeing controversy

A whiff of scandal wafted over Italy’s Serie A for the first time this season after a dramatic top-of-the-table clash that saw champions Juventus defeat challengers Roma 3-2 in a bad-tempered clash in Turin.

Two players  (one from each side​) and Roma coach Rudi Garcia were red carded while three dubious penalty decisions were given as Juventus went three points clear of the Giallorossi.

For legendary Roma captain Francesco Totti, who has spent 21 seasons with the capital club, a string of dubious decisions by referee Gianluca Rocchi raised age-old beliefs that Juventus routinely benefits from favourable decisions.

“Juventus should have a championship of their own because they always manage to win,” Totti told Sky television.

The performance of Rocchi on Sunday only served to reignite beliefs that Juventus wield massive influence among Italian football officials.

AS Roma's coach Rudi Garcia argues with referee Gianluca Rocchi. Photo: Reuters

Whether those accusations are true or not, Rocchi’s performance was pilloried throughout the Italian media.

One headline in Gazzetta dello Sport read: “Rocchi horror picture show.”

Even the politicians waded in after Italian politicians from right and left fuelled controversy following Sunday’s fiery Serie A encounter, with lower house deputies tabling questions in parliament and even complaining to the stock market regulator.

The 41-year-old from Florence was notably criticised for awarding Juventus a penalty in the 26th minute after Roma wingback Maicon used his elbow to defend his face from an Andrea Pirlo freekick.

Although Maicon appeared to be just outside the penalty area, Rocchi hesitated before appearing to bow to pressure from Juve’s angry players.

Carlos Tevez converted the spot kick to give Juve a 1-0 lead.

Biggest mistake

Former Serie A referee Paolo Casarin, who also served as chief of the league’s refereeing body, claimed it was Rocchi’s biggest mistake of the night.

“The biggest mistake made was the penalty decision against Maicon.

The elbow can (be used to) defend the face and that’s what the Brazilian did,” Casarin told Radio Anch’Io.

“It seems Rocchi first awarded a free kick on the edge of the area, which seemed the proper decision, then something or somebody influenced him. Protests, fellow officials, or his own uncertainties?”

The penalty award set in motion a series of other dubious decisions, which only added fuel to an already combustible atmosphere.

Totti won a penalty minutes later when he was manhandled by Stephan Lichsteiner in the Juventus box and stepped up to level the scores. 

But shortly after Roma took a 2-1 lead through Juan Iturbe, Juventus were awarded another penalty when Paul Pogba fell under a soft challenge from Miralem Pjanic on the edge of the penalty area and Tevez converted the spot kick.

Tevez converting the second penalty. Photo: Reuters

The match appeared to be heading for a 2-2 draw until Leonardo Bonucci fired a volley through a crowded Roma defence to give the hosts an 86th minute winner.

Although two Juve players were in an offside position, they were not interfering with play and therefore the goal stood.

Roma coach Garcia said doubts over refereeing decisions showed exactly why video replays should be introduced into the game.

“We’re in the 21st century after all,” said the Frenchman.

Source: Reuters, AFP, Twitter