(Updating with background and details, adds byline)
By Mike Collett
BASEL, June 10 (Reuters) - Netherlands’ controversial first goal in Monday’s 3-0 Group C victory over world champions Italy at Euro 2008 was correctly awarded despite many observers believing it was offside, organisers UEFA said on Tuesday.
UEFA general secretary David Taylor told a news conference the officials correctly interpreted Law 11 which relates to offside when Ruud van Nistelrooy scored after 26 minutes.
He stated that Christian Panucci played him onside although the Italian defender was off the pitch at the time.
“The goal was correctly awarded. Not many people, even in the game, and I include the players, know this interpretation (of Law 11),” Taylor said.
He conceded, however: “The Law itself does not deal with this situation directly at all,” but said that referees universally interpreted it in the way that the officials did on Monday night.
He said he had every sympathy with the wider footballing public for believing the officials called it wrong but said that Swedish referee Peter Frojdfeldt and his assistant Stefan Wittberg were absolutely correct in their interpretation.
Taylor told reporters: “Even though the Italian defender (Christian Panucci) was off the field because of his momentum, he is still deemed to be part of the game and is therefore taken into considersation as one of the last two defending players.
“As a result Ruud Van Nistelrooy was not nearer the opponents’ goalline than the second last defender and therefore could not be in an offside position.”
“This is a widely known interpretation of the offside law among referees but is not generally known by the wider footballing public and indeed many people in football,” he said.
“That is understandable because incidents like this are very unusual.
“However, there was a similar incident in a Swiss League match about a month ago between Sion and FC Basel and after a TV commentator initially suggested the referee had made a mistake, he later apologised publicly and congratulations to him.”
The goal caused confusion among both the Italian and Dutch players too, a number of whom looked astonished when the goal was awarded.
It also provoked some angry reaction among the Italian fans when it was replayed on the giant screens inside the Stade de Suisse stadium and led to Luca Toni being booked for dissent for protesting.
Taylor said his yellow card would stand and that goals would still be replayed on the screens throughout the tournament.
The International Football Association Board, the guardian of the game’s laws, had the prerogative to examine the law if they thought the wording needed to be clarified or a loophole existed, Taylor said.