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Bayern offside is latest Champions League controversy for ref Marciniak after cup final successes

GENEVA (AP) — It has been a challenging season in the Champions League for the 2022 World Cup final referee Szymon Marciniak and his support officials from Poland.

Two stoppage-time decisions by Marciniak and his team — affecting Bayern Munich in the semifinals on Wednesday and Newcastle in a group-stage game in November — have fueled referee controversies that are rare in the elite-level competition.

Both times, Marciniak’s and his team’s interventions seemed to go against the widely understood advice UEFA gives match officials for its games: Don’t stop play immediately for tight offside calls and don’t award a penalty for handball when the ball has deflected off a player’s own body.

A “disastrous decision,” Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel said of the assistant’s flag quickly raised and Marciniak’s whistle quickly blown for a possible offside in a last-chance attack in the 13th minute of stoppage time. Bayern needed one goal to force extra time against Real Madrid.

Matthijs de Ligt then shot into Madrid’s net that, if allowed, would have tied the score at 2-2 and kept Bayern in with a chance to reach the final.

In Marciniak’s previous controversy, Newcastle coach Eddie Howe spoke of a “poor decision ... hugely frustrating” when Paris Saint-Germain converted a spot kick eight minutes into stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw at Parc des Princes.

A win would have lifted Newcastle above PSG into second place in the group standings, behind leader Borussia Dortmund, with one round left. PSG ultimately advanced to the semifinals and was eliminated this week by Dortmund.

Marciniak awarded the penalty for handball against Newcastle defender Tino Livramento only after being urged by his video review specialist to look at the pitchside monitor. That official, Tomasz Kwiatkowski, was stood down by UEFA from his subsequent Champions League game.

Kwiatkowski also was on duty on Wednesday in Madrid but never got a chance to advise on the marginal offside call against Bayern because Marciniak whistled to officially stop play before De Ligt could shoot.

“It feels almost like a betrayal in the end because of that decision,” Tuchel said. “The referee does not have to whistle. He sees that we win the second ball, he sees that we get the shot away. To whistle is a very, very bad decision. It’s against the rules and it’s a bad decision from both of them.

“The linesman said sorry. That does not help.”

De Ligt said the assistant apologized to him, saying, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake.”

“If it’s offside or not, I don’t know, VAR can check it,” the Bayern defender said. “But if you don’t check it, how can you see it? This is a shame.”

UEFA did not comment on Thursday in line with its policy on field-of-play rulings.

In November, Marciniak’s video review specialist was removed from duty when UEFA’s chief of football was Zvonimir Boban, the Croatia great who won a Champions League with AC Milan. Boban left UEFA in January in a dispute with its president Aleksander Čeferin about governance standards.

Marciniak and his team were already out of contention for handling the Champions League final on June 1 — when Madrid plays Dortmund at Wembley Stadium in London — because they officiated the showpiece game last year. They were widely praised for handling Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Inter Milan, and their work at the World Cup final in Qatar.

Controversy flared days before that Champions League final when Marciniak spoke at a business rally in Poland run by a far-right politician.

Under pressure from a Polish anti-discrimination group that works in soccer, and later UEFA, Marciniak made a statement to “express my deepest apologies” for being involved in the event. He said he was misled about its true nature.

“I humbly request an opportunity to make amends and regain your trust through my future actions,” the referee said last June.

Still recognized as among the world’s best, Marciniak will return to UEFA duty at the European Championship, where Bayern’s stadium is one of 10 venues for the June 14-July 14 tournament.

It will be a surprise if UEFA sends Marciniak and his team to work in Munich so soon.

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