Metalurg was eliminated from the Europa League after a shameful performance from Swiss referee Cyril Zimmermann.
There is nothing worse than referees deciding outcomes of games and that was the case in this game as referee Cyril Zimmermann made a number of questionable calls that punished the Macedonian club. Metalurg started brightly and after a nice combination, captain Mile Krstev was through on goal and his first shot was initially saved but he scored on the rebound. Metalurg was the better team but then Lokomotiv Sofia was given a weak penalty in the 35th minute. A Lokomotiv midfielder played a ball in the area and the Metalurg defender Agron Memedi was simply marking his opponent who then just fell down showing no effort to play the ball but shockingly, the Swiss referee pointed to the spot. However, the football Gods were with Metalurg and the nonexistent penalty ended up being saved by the Metalurg keeper Igor Pavlović. Metalurg went into halftime with a deserving 1:0 lead.
The 2nd half started with Metalurg once again as the more dangerous team and the first chance fell for Baze Ilijoski in the 50th minute but his shot from a good position took a deflection and it went for a corner. Three minutes later, Metalurg won the ball in midfield and they were two on one going the other way but a Metalurg midfielder played a bad ball to Ilijoski and a potential big opportunity was squandered. Metalurg continued dominating and in the 54th minute, captain Mile Krstev should have scored his second goal of the game as he cut nicely in the box which freed up space but his shot was blocked and the score remained at 1:0. Then, the Swiss referee whistled another soft penalty for Lokomotiv Sofia. The Bulgarian club took a free kick and the referee spotted a foul in the box and pointed to the spot once again. If that was a penalty, then you could have countless penalties during games. There is always some pushing from both sides as they get ready to deal with a free kick or corner kick in the box. This time Lokomotiv Sofia converted their penalty and the score was tied 1:1.
Metalurg was also reduced to ten men after defender Agron Memedi was shown a second yellow card. Although Metalurg was visibly frustrated with the referee, they somehow kept their cool and once again took the deserving lead in the 62nd minute. Substitute Aleksandar Tenekedziev took a short corner before he received the ball back from Krstev and then Tenekedziev played an enticing cross in the box which reached Baze Ilijoski who scored on a volley to give Metalurg the 2:1 lead. Metalurg should have put the game away in the 71st minute when Vasko Mitrev dribbled past a defender before he was one on one with the keeper but his shot was saved and it stayed 2:1. In the 85th minute, Lokomotiv scored following a corner kick as the Metalurg players were afraid to make contact since the referee already gave a penalty for a foul so there was a lot of traffic in front of goal and Lokomotiv managed to score the equalizing goal. Metalurg was still in a good position as a 2:2 draw would have been enough for them to advance to the next round due to the away goals rule. Seconds after Lokomotiv scored, substitute Muzafer Ejupi had a good chance but his shot was straight at the keeper who made the comfortable save.
As the terrible calls of the referee mounted, the worst call actually didn’t come until the 88th minute. Metalurg defender Igor Kralevski simply jumped high to win a header but somehow the referee thought that was a foul and gave the Bulgarian club a free kick from a dangerous position. From watching the game, there was a feeling they would score from the free kick and that is exactly what happened as Lokomotiv scored the game winning goal from that soft foul called against Kralevski. Then, the same thing happened on the other end when a Lokomotiv defender jumped high to win a header and made contact with a Metalurg player but there was no foul this time, simply the referee waved play on and blew the final whistle after five minutes of stoppage time.
Metalurg will be very disappointed to be eliminated in this way. It’s heartbreaking for players when referees decide games and not players. Even the faces of the Lokomotiv players after the game was revealing as they breathed a sign of relief and knew they got lucky with some help from the referee who made a number of questionable calls. Metalurg will now focus on their next game which is the Super Cup final against Shkendija on 24 July 2011.
Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria
Referee: Cyril Zimmermann (Switzerland)
Scorers: Krstev 4′, Ilijoski 62′ (M); Preslav 58′, 85′, Bozhinov 89′ (L).
Red Cards: Memedi 55′ (second yellow)
Yellow Cards: Kralevski 19′, Petkovski 24′, Memedi 35′, 55′, Nacevski 57′, Ilijoski 59′, Dragović 67′, Krstev 76′ (M); Mesić 48′, Yanev 60′, Dyakov 61′, Bozhinov 90′ (L).
Lokomotiv Sofia: Galev, Savić, Dyakov, Atanasov (58′ Velev), Dobrev (c), Yanev (69′ Andonov), Karadzhinov (46′ Preslav), Pisarov, Bozhinov, Romanov, Mesić.
Metalurg: Pavlović; Petkovski, Dragović, Kralevski, Memedi; Zaharievski ( 66′ Gjorgievski), B. Ljamcevski, Krstev (c), Mitrev; Nacevski (60′ Tenekedziev), Ilijoski (84′ Ejupi).