11 December ~ So UEFA do not feel that it is necessary to open an inquiry into Wednesday's Dinamo Zagreb v Lyon game in the Champions League. As they are, or should be, the guardians of the integrity of the European game, this is an inexplicable stance. Italy's leading sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport called it "a farce" and declined to award the game any stars for entertainment, which shows what they think. Let's look at the facts for a moment. Even allowing for the fact that Zagreb were playing with ten men, what happened was surely almost without precedent. As Lyon's first goal came in first-half stoppage time and their seventh after 75 minutes, they effectively scored seven goals in the space of 30 minutes.
Since the start of European club football in 1955, has that ever happened before? So many goals in so few minutes should only happen in absurd mismatches like Arbroath v Bon Accord (36-0), Australia v American Samoa (31-0) or Preston v Hyde (26-0). A Champions League group game should not be an absurd mismatch.
It becomes even more difficult to pass it off as "one of those things" when you realise that Lyon's seven goals in 30 minutes followed just two in their previous 495 minutes of Champions League play. We all know that football is unpredictable and illogical, which is partly why we love it, but there are limits.
UEFA seem to think that their stance is justified because they haven't detected any anomalous betting patterns, but surely it is disingenuous to think that betting is the only way in which a game can be manipulated. UEFA should be deeply suspicious of the Zagreb-Lyon game. Perhaps they should also have some doubts about the late qualifications of Marseille in Dortmund and CSKA Moscow in Milan.
It is always possible that an inquiry will show there was no wrongdoing, but to now even hold one seems a dereliction of duty. Considering that Ajax and Lyon could not be separated on a head-to-head basis as both their games finished 0-0, maybe it is time to reintroduce a one off play-off on a neutral ground to cover that specific case and allay any doubts. There is plenty of time in the two month interval before the knock-out stages begin.
It may not have any direct bearing on what happened on Wednesday, but UEFA should also be concerned that in three groups the bottom team failed to take a point. I once saw a game in which a team won 7-1 after going behind in the second half, so it can happen. But Woking v Clapton in the Isthmian League in December 1957 isn't quite the same as what happened in Zagreb on Wednesday. Geoff Bradford