Yesterday’s match has fired up many debates around Luis Nani being sent off in the second half of the game after charging into Arbeloa. Alex Ferguson, as well as Manchester United fans, was outraged by the decision taken by referee Çakir, and claimed that the match had been ruined by the strict refereeing.
While it is true that there is no intent in Nani’s move, it was dangerous play, he hit Arbeloa right in the ribs. What is more, instead of going to where Arbeloa was and seeing if he was ok, Nani fell to the floor and pretended to be hurt. When the referee showed him the red card it was clear that Nani wasn’t hurt at all. In my opinion, it was more of a yellow card than a red one, as it was clearly involuntary and barges are very frequent in football matches and tend to be ‘ignored’ by referees.
Still, for better or for worse, the referee’s decision is final, it always has been and teams as big as Manchester United should have the ability to change their strategy accordingly. As Mourinho reminded, the same thing happened two years ago to Real Madrid when they played Barcelona in the semifinals of the Champions League and Pepe was sent off for a very similar thing.
To be fair, Real Madrid was also affected by the refereeing, as Rafael’s handball was unnoticed, even though he stopped a goal with his arm, which would have left United with only 9 players and facing a penalty.
Real Madrid also lacked of Cristiano Ronaldo’s usual performance; he kept missing shots that would usually find the back of the net. After the match, Cristiano Ronaldo confessed that he had felt overwhelmed by the ‘welcome back home’ placards of the Man U fans, and was unable to play like he usually plays because of this. Cristiano Ronaldo is a main piece on Real Madrid’s strategy, and without his full commitment Real found it hard to score.
Luckily, goal keeper Diego Lopez was there to save the match while his team faced difficulties, and the only goal for Man U was Sergio Ramos’ own goal.
So Manchester United had many opportunities to make sure they went through to the next round, but they were unable to take the advantage. Real Madrid regained their confidence after Modric’s spectacular goal, and Cristiano’s one was only a matter of time.
Overall, Real Madrid played well especially considering that they had a very hard week, playing against Barcelona twice.