London: World Cup final referee Howard Webb has defended his performance in Sunday`s match and said he did all he could to keep control in a bad-tempered atmosphere.
The Englishman received a barrage of criticism in the wake of Spain`s 1-0 extra-time victory over the Netherlands after handing out 13 yellow cards and sending off Dutchman John Heitinga.
Several Dutch players spoke out after the final whistle, accusing Webb of favouring the Spaniards, who in turn felt he had failed to clamp down on aggressive Netherlands tactics.
"Whatever the match, you always hope that the officials won`t need to be heavily involved. However, we had to raise our profile in order to keep control," Webb said in a statement on the Premier League website.
"We don`t feel that we had much choice except to manage the game in the way we did. We came away feeling satisfied that we`d done a tough job in difficult circumstances to the best of our abilities.”
"It was an extremely challenging match to handle, but it would have been so for any referee. It is one of the toughest games we will ever be involved in and we feel that we worked hard to keep the focus on the football as much as possible."
The final was marred by a series of rash Dutch challenges and unsavoury haranguing of officials. The Dutch were lucky to avoid a sending-off in the first half when Nigel de Jong kicked Xabi Alonso in the chest and was given a yellow card.
"We tried to apply some common-sense officiating given the magnitude of the occasion for both sides -- advising players early on for some of their tackling, sending players away when they were surrounding the officials, and speaking to their senior colleagues to try to calm them down," Webb said.
Webb, the first referee to officiate in the Champions League and World Cup finals in the same season, said that despite the furore he had enjoyed his time in South Africa.
"It was a marvellous honour to have been selected for the tournament and we had a wonderful six weeks in South Africa.”
"The people made us feel really welcome and we`ve hugely enjoyed the experience of being involved in such an incredible and unique event."