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World Cup ref Webb defends final performance

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LONDON (AP) - English referee Howard Webb says he is satisfied with his handling of the World Cup final, despite criticism from Netherlands players after their 1-0 defeat by Spain.

Netherlands players criticized Webb's performance in Sunday's match at Soccer City in Johannesburg, complaining about a series of decisions during an ill-tempered game that was decided by Andres Iniesta's extra-time winner.

But in a statement released by the Premier League on Tuesday, Webb said that he and his linesmen did a tough job as well as they could in what were demanding conditions, calling it "an extremely challenging match" and one of the hardest matches he will ever have to handle.

"We don't feel that we had much choice except to manage the game in the way we did," Webb said. "We came away feeling satisfied that we'd done a tough job in difficult circumstances to the best of our abilities.

"From early on in the match we had to make decisions that were clear yellow cards. 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 and calm them down."

Webb booked 13 different players and sent off John Heitinga after showing the Netherlands defender a second yellow card in extra time. However, Netherlands players were furious at his earlier failure to send off Spain defender Carles Puyol after he appeared to impede goal-bound Arjen Robben in the 82nd minute.

Though defending his display, Webb acknowledged how difficult the final had been for him and his fellow officials.

"It was an extremely challenging match to handle, but it would have been so for any referee," he said. "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."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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