Distraught referee made apology in Leeds dressing room after handball blunder

A referee made such a huge error in a Champions League match between Leeds and Real Madrid he came into the dressing room to apologise afterwards.

At Elland Road in 2001, the two group-toppers faced off in what was a game to decide who would go through first and second. Alan Smith got the hosts off to a good start with a goal on six minutes. But just a minute later, the La Liga giants brought the game level when striker Raul put the ball home with his hand.

But despite the goal being a clear foul, referee Ryszard Wojcik did not see the incident and the goal stood. Real went on to win the game 3-2 and ended up topping the group.

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Leeds, however, were furious with what happened – though a sheepish Wojcik did go in and apologise to David O’Leary's men after the match. Their match report – still active on their official site – reads: "A calamitous boob by apologetic referee Ryszard Wojcik had a major hand in United's 3-2 Champions League defeat by Real Madrid, leaving manager David O'Leary in a philosophical mood.

"The Polish official trooped into the Leeds dressing room after the final whistle to hold his hands up to his first -half blunder that allowed the current European champions to equalise just a minute after Alan smith had put Leeds ahead as early as the sixth minute.

"Raul's blatant handball was evident to all in the Bernabeu except the one man who counted and then to make matters worse a freak bounce on a shot from Luis Figo deceived Nigel Martyn to put Real ahead shortly before half-time."

The scathing report continued: "Mark Viduka brought Leeds level early in the second half, but Raul – ever the opportunist – legally grabbed the winner legally with his head on the hour mark.

"David O'Leary, who despite knowing that his side are through to the quarter-finals regardless of this result, was left shaking his head in disbelief at the second decision in five days that had cost Leeds dear."

Leeds did extremely well in their European campaign despite the loss. After making it through the first qualifying group stage and into the second one, they went into the knockouts with Los Blancos.

In the quarterfinals, they beat Deportivo La Coruna 3-2 on aggregate. But they came undone by Valencia, drawing their first leg 0-0, before losing in the second 3-0.


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