Soccer is an incredibly subjective sport. Soccer has always been laden with controversial decisions made by refs who are expected to get every call right. (They are professionals right?) Soccer will always have situations and moments that outweigh a game’s results and carry endless banter arguments for years after the game’s final score is forgotten. So let me ask you this…In any futbol world is this a red card?
For me, it is an obvious decision but I am not in front of 80,000 raucous fans. I don’t have a million other things to be aware of and a million other decisions to make. I am solely focused on this play. IS THIS A RED CARD?
Let me settle the controversy for you. In no world is this a red card. Nani unmaliciously went up to trap a ball in a controlled motion with his sole focus on the ball. In no moment did he glance forward and see Arbeloa flying in to bring the ball down. It’s not a red, not on this stage, not when so much is riding on this game, not in my coed league on Thursday nights. It is a yellow. It’s done, we can move on with the game.
But alas, dreams are not reality and I was not privy to an even match yesterday afternoon. Still, it was an exciting game to watch. (At least for the first hour) Real Madrid dominated possession as was expected and the game took on an eerily similar look to that of the first leg i.e. Real Madrid keeps possession and looks to be in control and BAM! Manchester United strikes against the run of play and takes a 1-0 lead. It could have happened sooner than it did. Vidic had a fantastic header denied by the woodwork. United were home. You knew they would eventually break through and they did, in the form of a flubbed Varane clearance and well placed cross the the malicious man Nani which Sergio Ramos unluckily tapped into the net after a vital flick from Danny Welbeck. Some will say that the 1-0 lead was undeserved. I will say that it was. The organization and discipline United showed in the back was impressive and it thwarted every Madrid attack. Madrid might have had the bulk of possession in their own and middle thirds but once they entered United’s third there were no answers and no winning ideas. Sir Alex Ferguson had it right until the ref didn’t. He ruined the game. This would be my reaction too
That being said, it is not the first time a team has gone to ten men while holding a lead in the Champion’s League. From the card United were under constant pressure. There was no relief, no outlet for the mighty Reds. Real Madrid found an equalizer from a brilliant strike from none other than super-sub Luka Modric. Still, he never would have had that much space if the teams were even strength. I can’t take away any of the excellence of that strike though. De Gea had no chance as it bent from outside the frame onto the inside of the post and into the far side netting. 1-1 and game over for United. Three minutes later Real Madrid would take the lead for good and who other but former Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo to make it happen. Higuain slotted a ball across the front of goal that Ronaldo was able to latch on and slyly finish. A tough finish but a man of Ronaldo’s skill had no problem with it. There was no celebration for Ronaldo but he was just saving that for after Madrid won.
Manchester United would not lie down though. The last fifteen minutes were more exciting than I expected and provided multiple chances for United to equalize. None more apparent than another free header from Nemanja Vidic. But this time, goalkeeper Diego Lopez was up to the task.
All in all it was a thrilling game I couldn’t look away from. It was exciting and controversial and I only hope that some of the remaining Champion’s League fixtures bring the same kind of entertainment. Just to be clear, I don’t want to see another game decided by a referee’s poor judgement. I want adventurous and open play with clinical finishing. Barcelona and AC Milan is definitely one to watch!