Seven goals scored and consequent qualification in the European Cup for a Lyon team which until then had found scoring in the group so difficult. True, Dynamo did have a man sent off in the first half, but seven goals?
Michel Platini, ever more controversial and disappointing President of UEFA, seems airily unconcerned, reassured it would seem, by the fact that there was no sign of unusual betting at the bookmakers.
Why did there have to be? The all too long record of corruption and malfeasance in European football stretches all the way back to the 1960s when Inter and Juventus were at it; chicanery which I spent a long time investigating for the Sunday Times. No bookmakers were remotely involved back then. it was a straightforward, if that is the word, matter of fixing usually involving the serpentine Italo Allodi as a chief club executive and his hit man, the Hungarian Dezso Solti.
Perhaps the seven-goal fiasco in Zagreb was nothing more than a bad night for the local team. But at least UEFA should surely make some attempt to find out. Limited I know by the fact that as one found out investigating in the seventies they have never had an investigative arm.
All credit for Platini for trying with new limitations to rein in the grotesque excesses of the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea; one can hope that he will succeed. But his ludicrous championing of Qatar as World Cup 2022 hosts and his now almost more absurd suggestion that the World Cup be played there in winter, never mind the chaos it would cause UEFA’s own clubs, makes you wonder at his consistent confusion.
There is no hint that he has acted in anything but total honesty, but this in itself is bewildering, since he had always seemed a man of lively intelligence.
Meanwhile, he has been irritably criticising Sir Alex Ferguson for his lack of delight that Manchester United, like Manchester City, are condemned now to sink into the Europa League, whose misbegotten format he has inflicted on European clubs.
In the first place, it should be said that clubs knocked out of the European Cup proper should simply stay out of Europe, not be imposed on a competition so absurdly bloated that so many of its clubs, caught among minnows, have already for months been travelling huge distances to play so inconveniently on Thursdays.
It is hard to contain one’s satisfaction that Manchester City, for all their colossal expenditure, were duly eliminated from the European Cup, when, thanks to Bayern Munich already the group winners, their 2-0 win didn’t prevent the far more deserving Napoli from edging them out with their 2-0 win at Villarreal.
By the same token, Arsenal’s greatly weakened team may predictably have lost at Olympiakos but resilient Marseille, winning with a flurry of late goals at Borussia Dortmund, still went on to qualify for the next stage.
There is alas plainly nothing to be done as long as this once splendid competition is burdened with group stages, though it was still worse when there were not one but two of them, exposing the tournament to the possibility of corruption.
Yes, of course the big clubs want the money, and when they do put out weakened teams can comfortably point to the fact as Wolves once did, when their scratch team went down at Manchester United, that every player fielded was registered for the appropriate tournament. So in the future, deserving clubs can be cheated out of their deserts.