Red card error ruins Arsène Wenger's 1,000th match

Referee sends off wrong man, despite on-pitch plea by guilty player, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

The game could have been remembered as Arsène Wenger's 1,000th in charge at Arsenal, or simply for the 6-0 battering his side endured at the hands of Chelsea.

Instead, thanks to a case of mistaken identity that sparked uproar in the terraces – and on Twitter – it is likely to go down in footballing annals as one of the most bizarre displays of refereeing ever witnessed in the Premiership.

An impressive start from Chelsea had already made the game difficult for Arsenal when, with the score at 2-0 just 15 minutes in, referee Andre Marriner added to their pains by sending off one of the team's players – the wrong player.

To spectators at Stamford Bridge and a global television audience that stretched into the many millions, it was patently obvious that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stuck out his arm to deflect a shot at goal. Yet, despite an on-pitch confession from the Arsenal defender, the red card was given to team-mate Kieran Gibbs. Chelsea then converted the subsequent penalty to go 3-0 up.

Three goals and another 70-plus minutes of play later and Marriner was issuing his apologies, saying he was "disappointed" at failing to identify the correct player. The Football Association said the decision could be appealed.

But the referee's mistake, made despite advice offered to Marriner from one of his assistants, had already rekindled debate about the use of sideline referees and catapulted the referee into a Twitter-fuelled frenzy. During half-time analysis on BT Sport, former Arsenal striker Ian Wright pointed out that both players involved in the incident were of mixed race. "What is he [the referee] saying, that they both look the same?" he asked. Fellow pundit Steve McManaman replied: "Is he [Marriner] being racist?".

It raised similar comments on Twitter. "All look the same those mixed race boys," tweeted Stan Collymore, another former player turned pundit. One user, Stephen Bush, wrote: "No worries Andre. Sometimes I mistake myself for Barack Obama. Hell of a shock when Putin doesn't answer my calls." Another, Tom Ziller, wrote: "Whoops! Referee sends off wrong black Arsenal player after handball."

Marriner's error isn't entirely without recent precedent. Last November, Preston had the wrong man sent off when midfielder Neil Kilkenny was shown the red card during a League One match against Port Vale. The real offender, striker Joe Garner, was later suspended retrospectively for three games.

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