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Top referees insist Dutch opener was valid

  • Story Highlights
  • Top referees say Dutch opener against Italy in Euro 2008 was not offside
  • Stricken Italian defender Christian Panucci played Ruud van Nistelrooy onside
  • Dutch went on to win the game 3-0 to head "Group of Death"
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(CNN) -- Ruud van Nistelrooy's controversial opening goal for the Netherlands in their 3-0 win over Italy at Euro 2008 last night was correctly given as onside, according to leading referees.

Van Nistelrooy wheels away as he scores the opener to Italian protests.

The Real Madrid striker looked to be clearly offside when he prodded home Giovanni van Bronckhorst's low cross after 26 minutes.

Despite fervent protests from the world champions, Swedish referee Peter Frojdfeldt allowed the goal to stand because Italy defender Christian Panucci was lying off the pitch and so played van Nistelrooy onside.

Gerhard Kapl, head of the refereeing commission in Austria, said the decision was "100 percent correct" -- quoting article 11.4.1 of the refereeing code which states "an opposing player cannot be offside when one of the last two defenders has left the field of play."

Kapl said the rule was put in place to ensure defenders did not leave the field pretending to be injured when a goal might about to be scored.

There is no suggestion that Panucci, who had left the field seconds before the goal was scored, was not genuinely injured, but Keith Hackett, head of English Premier League referees said the Italians can have no complaints.

"The fact is the assistant was correct, the defender who slid off the field is still regarded as active," Hackett told BBC Sport.

"Christian Panucci went off through contact with his own goalkeeper (Gianluigi) Buffon. He is still considered part of the game."

The Dutch went on to win the game 3-0 with two superb late breakaway goals and are in prime position in Group C which also contains France and Romania who drew 0-0 in an earlier game on Monday.

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