Referee Wolfgang Stark has apologized for a devastating handball decision that led to Borussia Dortmund's 2-3 home loss to Wolfsburg. The unusual act of contrition from an official came after Stark's call resulted in a red card and automatic ban for Dortmund defender Marcel Schmelzer and a penalty for Wolfsburg that completely changed the match in the 35th minute.
"I've looked at it again later and unfortunately it was an error of perception on my part," he told reporters outside his dressing room. "I'm sorry, that should not happen.
"The penalty and the red card were a mistake on my part. That's annoying."
Schmelzer was judged to have handled the ball to stop Bas Dost's goal-bound shot going into the net but replays showed that ball hit Schmelzer's knee and, although it also brushed his fist, the contact was insignificant and clearly unintentional.
Dortmund had been leading 1-0 after a Marco Reus goal in the 6th minute, but Diego converted the penalty for Wolfsburg, who scored again just five minutes later. Dortmund equalized with a penalty of their own in the 61st minute, but couldn't keep Bas Dost from scoring a winner in the 73rd minute.
Though Schmelzer's automatic ban might be rescinded after Stark's public concession, the damage has already been done for defending champions Dortmund, who now trail Bayern Munich by 14 points in the Bundesliga table. Stark, meanwhile, adds this to his list of high-profile controversies that also includes his performance in the 2010 Champions League round of 16 tie between Chelsea and Inter, Real Madrid's loss to Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League semifinal and the Euro 2012 group stage match between Spain and Croatia. So while he might not be getting any closer to perfection, at least he isn't denying his mistakes. That's...something.