Commentators can't believe their eyes in Piraeus

Anderlecht have qualified for the last 16 in the Europa League, despite referee Robert Hunter. The North-Irish referee blundered several times, but Anderlecht eventually managed to push through against Olympiakos Piraeus in extra time (1-2), after the return match had ended 1-0 after 90 minutes, the same score as the first leg. Commentators couldn't believe their eyes in the Greek port city.
Referee Arnold Hunter of Northern Ireland was in the eye of the storm in Piraeus.

True, Anderlecht were lucky to escape a 'regular' goal in the first 90 minutes, as Olympiakos squandered some excellent goal-scoring opportunities, but were trailing 1-0 anyway after Olympiakos were awarded a penalty. Kostas Fortounis converted the 'present' on 30 minutes, while footage showed that the penalty should never have been given, as Anderlecht's midfielder Stéphane Badji clearly did not touch the ball with his hands. The ball was actually nowhere near his hands or arms: it flipped off his upper leg to his chin.

It was not the first major mistake Hunter made. He failed to send off Olympiakos' Alberto Botía after just 5 minutes for fouling Anderlecht's quick winger Frankie Acheampong, who was heading for the goalkeeper on a counter-attack. Instead, he gave a foul against Acheampong for imaginary 'hands' (small picture).

The third decision triggering controversy came just before the break. Anderlecht got a corner kick, but were not allowed to give it as the added time of 1 minute had just expired. The decision may be according to the rule, but was not a fortunate one.

The fourth mistake came early in the second half. Botía made a heavy foul on Anderlecht's Filip Djuricic. Everyone expected a red card to follow, but Botía escaped again, this time with yellow.

Fair's fair though: in the last 20 minutes the referee made some controversial decisions in Anderlecht's favour. The biggest one came early in the first 15 minutes of extra time. Anderlecht's Leander Dendoncker made a penalty foul, but Hunter hadn't seen it. Instead, it was Acheampong who steered Anderlecht to a state of deliverance, with 2 late goals.

Anderlecht now meet Shakhtar Donetsk of the Ukraine, who ousted Schalke 3-0 on aggregate. The ties take place on March 10 and 17.

Commentators flabbergasted

Both the Flemish radio and TV colleagues were stunned by Hunter's decisions. Peter Vandenbempt, the leading football journalist on VRT radio, called Hunter decisions "a real disgrace" and "unimaginable", while at the same time, his TV Colleague Filip Joos (the match was aired live on the VRT's second channel Canvas) used the words "unreal, disgraceful, and a real shame".

The referee's decisions made Anderlecht President Roger Vanden Stock leave the stadium early. Robert Jeurissen, the boss of the Belgian referees, analysed the game for the VRT sports desk Sporza. "I think this means the end of season for Hunter. He blew his chance. This is a catastrophe for football in general and for the UEFA. They wanted to give a young referee a real chance, and then this happens. It was a catastrophe."