Referee makes himself star in draw between Wolfsburg and Paderborn
The points likely should’ve gone to Wolfsburg, but Manuel Gräfe had a shocker.
There are times when the referee seems to want to make himself the star of the match. There are other times when you wonder whether they’ve simply been having a few pulls from the flask before whistling for kickoff. Then there are the games in which both seem to collide, when a spectacular lack of thought from the official dictates the result.
That’s exactly what happened in Wolfsburg’s 1-1 draw with Paderborn. Going into the match with the freshly promoted side, Wolfsburg were second, having lost just once in their last nine Bundesliga matches. Paderborn, meanwhile, were winless in four, sitting just three points above the relegation zone. With Augsburg losing and Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach playing out a draw, it should’ve been an easy chance for Wolfsburg to consolidate their position.
Wolfsburg certainly dominated the first half. The visitors managed just two shots, with only one on target. Yet they went into the break with the scoreline 1-0.
The first goal was chalked up as an own goal from Rafa Lopez, who did his best to rescue a shot off the line, only to have it slam the underside of the crossbar and fall past Lukas Kruse. That should’ve set Wolfsburg up for domination — Paderborn were in chaos, and the hosts kept pouring forward.
Yet Wolfsburg almost seemed too confident. Gifted a chance at a spot kick — possibly the last correct decision made by Manuel Gräfe — Ivan Perišić sent in a weak strike, easily pushed aside by Kruse. Soon after, Bas Dost hit the woodwork, followed by Kevin De Bruyne placing his shot inches wide.
Then Dost netted, doubling Wolfsburg’s lead just before the break. Except…he didn’t. The goal was called back, supposedly for a foul on Christian Strohdiek. Replays showed it looked as though the defender had, shall we say, gone to ground rather easily, but Gräfe was hearing none of the protests.
Yet with the way Wolfsburg were playing, it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before they managed to add to their tally.
Except the referee’s decisions had given Paderborn some breathing space. With only one goal to cancel out, André Breitenreiter made a change at the break, shifting to a 4-4-2 with Stefan Kutschke on for Daniel Brückner. Suddenly the visitors were able to threaten.
But the real shift came when Gräfe gifted Paderborn a penalty. Early in the second half, the official judged that Naldo had struck Strohdiek in the face with his boot, showing yellow and pointing to the spot. The penalty was questionable to say the least — it looked as though Naldo didn’t even graze Strohdiek — but nonetheless, up stepped Alban Meha and the score was level.
From then on, Paderborn had enough control to keep hold of the point. Sure, they still went to pieces at the back, but Wolfsburg looked flustered. Gräfe contributed once again, this time through inaction. Apparently the referee thought two penalties were enough, so despite a foul from Meha inside the area, play was allowed to continue.
Credit, too, to Kruse, who was able to withstand the final fifteen minutes in which Wolfsburg absolutely assaulted his goal. And Paderborn were lucky, both with Perišić’s weak penalty attempt and the hosts’ imprecision in front of the net.
But the real star of this show was Gräfe. A disallowed goal. An extremely questionable penalty to Paderborn. Either the referee is a huge fan of Paderborn, a buddy of Strohdiek or spent too much time watching Dynamo Berlin in the 80s, when officials were encouraged by the Stasi to give the local team a winning boost.
Or, you know, he was just having a bad day. But this is the same referee that made a mess out of Real Madrid’s victory over Juventus in last season’s Champions League, showing Giorgio Chiellini a straight red. He also was the target of ire a few years back for failing to spot a handball in England’s goalless draw with Montenegro. And this time, Gräfe ensured that a struggling side took a point, while making things all the more difficult for high-flying Wolfsburg. Maybe it’s time he exits center stage.