Aw­ful ref spoil exciting match

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

MADRID — Out of a chaotic but ut­terly com­pelling night at the Bern­abeu, there were many ques­tions, but one of the most press­ing be­yond those about ref­er­ee­ing de­ci­sions was this: did the most “de­serv­ing” team go through?

The sec­ond most press­ing was would the most “de­serv­ing” team have gone through even if ev­ery ref­er­ee­ing de­ci­sion had been right?

That kind of un­pre­dictabil­ity is one of the great glo­ries of the foot­ball, and Real Madrid’s 4-2 win over Bay­ern Munich on Tues­day night was gen­uinely close to be­ing one of the mod­ern Cham­pi­ons League soc­cer’s truly epic en­coun­ters.

But it also summed up so many of the frus­tra­tions of the mod­ern game. It was an in­tense and hugely en­ter­tain­ing en­counter, but still one ir­ri­tat­ingly de­cided by a se­ries of con­spic­u­ously ques­tion­able de­ci­sions as much as the great play­ers present like Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Ar­jen Robben.

Granted, one of the big­gest wrong de­ci­sions was ar­guably that of an un­der­stand­ably seething Carlo Ancelotti him­self, in keep­ing Ar­turo Vi­dal on the pitch when he looked a red card wait­ing to hap­pen.

The Chilean did get sent off of course, but not for a tackle that was a foul, and that was the big frus­tra­tion in this up-to-then up­lift­ing game.

At that point in the 84th minute, it was an en­counter so en­tic­ingly on the edge and in the bal­ance. Bay­ern had scored the goal to bring them level, and it looked set for an im­mer­sive ex­tra-time, one of those nights where ev­ery sin­gle player is so in­tensely in­vested and aware of both the stakes and ex­haust­ing this was.

That should have been the stage for the great play­ers to de­cide things with their sen­sa­tional abil­ity. While that hap­pened to a cer­tain de­gree with Ron­aldo's goals, what fa­cil­i­tated that was some sen­sa­tional mis­takes. Vi­dal should never have gone — at least for that spe­cific tackle on Marco Asen­sio.

He could well have gone be­fore then, and that re­flects that were likely pos­si­ble wrong de­ci­sions be­fore that. Zine­dine Zi­dane was keen to point out af­ter the game that Bay­ern’s sec­ond was likely off­side, although that might well have been off­set by Robert Le­wandowski then get­ting in­cor­rectly flagged when clean through, and that Casemiro could also have gone off.

As Ancelotti also pointed out, though, you can usu­ally un­der­stand a lot of these de­ci­sions be­cause there is enough room for doubt. Peo­ple ac­cept un­der­stand­ably in­cor­rect calls.

“I know it’s foot­ball and it hap­pens some­times,” the Ital­ian be­gan. “But not this se­ri­ous of a mis­take.”

And that was the thing. The Vi­dal de­ci­sion wrongly ru­ined how beau­ti­fully poised the game was. The next few de­ci­sions, that were even more ob­vi­ously wrong, went and de­cided the game. Ron­aldo scored two goals from bla­tantly off­side po­si­tions.

It does seem mis­placed that a match of such mag­ni­tude and in­volv­ing such in­tense ef­fort from the play­ers can be set­tled in such a lit­eral ar­bi­trary way. It does at least strengthen the ar­gu­ment for con­tin­ued ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with video tech­nol­ogy, even if there are re­main­ing is­sues and fair ques­tions over the speed of the sys­tem used in the re­cent France-Spain friendly.

The irony is of course that ref­eree Vik­tor Kas­sai was the of­fi­cial who was in charge of that game and used the tech­nol­ogy to get two big calls com­pletely right. He might well think he could have done with it here, as Ancelotti ar­gued, hav­ing first ques­tioned the ref­eree’s per­for­mance.

"A quar­ter-fi­nal, you have to have a ref­eree with... I don't know... with more qual­ity. Or have video. There are too many er­rors. “The ref had a bad game. Full-stop.” Bay­ern are out. Well, not quite with a full-stop but with a lot of ques­tions about the de­ci­sions.

It hap­pens in foot­ball. That is some­thing you gen­er­ally have to ac­cept.

It rarely hap­pens to this de­gree. That is some­thing you can un­der­stand them strug­gling to ac­cept.

It is also such a pity that a match that had all the ingredients in place to be a pure foot­ball epic ended up be­ing just one other mas­sive and te­dious ar­gu­ment about of­fi­ci­at­ing.

So, did the most de­serv­ing team go through? That is hard to say, but not be­ing able to say it is usu­ally one of the beau­ties of foot­ball; one of its great virtues.

What hap­pened in this match ac­tu­ally de­tracted from that beauty. That is proven by how the man­agers, and the rest of us — and this very piece — are not re­ally talk­ing about great play. We are talk­ing about ref­er­ees. — On­line.

Vik­tor Kas­sai flashes the red card dur­ing Real Madrid’s 4-2 win over Bay­ern Munich on Tues­day

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