David Saltman, who presided over the pitch at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for the last two FA Cup finals before its return to Wembley, has said that, had attention not been directed at the Luzhniki Stadium pitch in the match build-up, no one would have commented on the surface at all.
The Luzhniki turf exceeded expectations, according to David Saltman
"I have to say that when I watched the game last night I was pleasantly surprised at how well the groundsman had turned it around," he said.
"Aesthetically, it wasn't half as bad as I was expecting it to be. If there hadn't been any speculation before the game, no one would have mentioned the pitch once as it didn't look too bad for an Eastern European surface.
"I thought the pitch drained very well despite there being plenty of rain, and there was no pooling water."
The sight of Ashley Cole changing his boots only a short time into the match, numerous slippages throughout the 120 minutes, and an unusually high number of players afflicted by cramp saw observers question the integrity of the pitch once more - unfairly according to Saltman.
He explained: "In terms of cramp, I don't remember a Cup final where the players didn't get cramp.
"The supplier of the turf has supplied about 60 European stadiums, and his turf is probably better quality than most of the UK providers I work with. I wouldn't say that there was any thatch in them that would make it spongy.
"I didn't see evidence of the pitch becoming heavy as I didn't see it cutting up. There was hardly any divoting. I didn't see the ball bobble, it didn't deviate; the ball was moving well. I thought [the groundsman, Matthew Frost] had done a cracking job with it."
Slipping, however, was rife among the players. Edwin Van der Sar's studs gave out moments before Frank Lampard equalised on half-time and John Terry, who had played down the impact of a poorly laid pitch before the game, saying it would "be the same for both sides," lost his footing when taking his crucial penalty kick.
"The pitch gets the blame for this quite often," Saltman said. "But the reality is that players wear bladed studs, rather than traditional ones. Whether it is because manufacturers sponsor them and they have to wear them, I don't know. But when it is slick and fast, if they are wearing blades then the likelihood is that they will not be able to get a decent purchase on the ground.
"A lot of clubs now ban their players from using blades. Manchester United do. They don't have the grip that the players need."
Source :- The Telegraph