Foul play?

Soccer game kicks off controversy

CANNES — Cannes opening night on Wednesday offered an enthralling thriller laced by controversy that raised big questions: the European Champions League soccer final between Barcelona and Arsenal.

In the 18th minute, Norwegian referee Terje Hauge disallowed a Barcelona goal preferring to send off Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann for a just-earlier foul.

What would have happened if the goal had gone on the scoreboard and Lehmann had stayed on the field?

Arsenal faithful can only ponder that mystery.

Having gone one up (Sol Campbell, minute 37), Arsenal devotees had to be reminded that the match was only entertainment after Barcelona finally cracked Arsenal’s defense with two beautifully uncoded through-passes from Henrik Larsson, which found Samuel Eto’o in minute 77 for a goal and Juliano Belletti in minute 81 for another.

The final provoked disparate reactions, which is only healthy in a world of soccer diversity.

“Barcelona deserved to win after all that Catalonia has been through this year,” said Pere Roca, head of the Catalan Development Center.

“It was daylight robbery,” lamented an inconsolable Variety European editor Adam Dawtrey.

Having got the Champions Final out of the way, Arsenal and Barcelona followers can finally settle down at Cannes and focus on a competition which, on paper at least, offers guaranteed entertainment.

Yes, the World Cup soccer final begins June 9.

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