Mar 5, 2013, 4:45 PM EDT
Up 1-0 approaching the hour mark, Manchester United seemed destined for the Champions League quarterfinals. Their overall lead in the two-legged round was 2-1, and Real Madrid hadn’t had a clear look on goalkeeper David de Gea all day. After a year of living with the embarrassment of last year’s group stage exit, the Red Devils were set for redemption.
Then came controversy. A ball cleared out of Manchester United’s end saw Nani turn up field, jump, and raise his leg to try and trap the ball. But Real Madrid defender Álvaro Arbeloa was coming on to trap the ball. When the United attacker unintentionally extended his foot into his opponent’s chest, he earned a red card.
And despite the debate that’s destined to follow, the video evidence leaves little doubt. This is a red card offense:
(image courtesy The Big Lead)
Ten minutes later, Luka Modric equalized. Two minutes after that, Cristiano Ronaldo scored, putting Real Madrid through. One errant foul and controversial red card later, Manchester United as eliminated from Champions League.
Debate seems obligatory following any important call, and there was no shortage of people who felt Turkish referee Cunyet Cakir ruined this match. But that’s a difficult case to make when you look at the evidence. Nani lifts his boot to near-shoulder level (after he’d already elevated) and made contact with a player’s chest. There have certainly been more egregious fouls, but this one was an obligatory red. Had Cakir swallowed his whistle, the controversy would have been worse (and justified).
The margin for error was small. Manchester United was the better team over the first hour, their control of play leading to a Sergio Ramos own goal in the 48th minute. And even after going down to 10-men, Manchester United had chances to equalize, even if that meant they still would have lost on away goals.
But Nani made a mistake. An innocent, absent-minded mistake. That cost his team the match. If Arbeloa’s not there, the contact isn’t flush, the referee swallows his whistle or Nani just keeps his foot at a reasonable height, United goes through.
Instead, United’s out of Champions League. Real Madrid’s dream of a decima lives on.
More on today’s match:
Jun 30, 2015, 9:38 PM EDT
There will be a blockbuster final to the Copa America, as Argentina thumped Paraguay to cruise to the final.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:21 PM EDT
With one brilliant 90-minute performance, the United States reasserted itself as the best team in the world.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
The U.S. is headed to the final for the fourth time in seven tournaments.
Report: Pearson’s firing due to Leicester players’ racist sex tape scandal, “definitely not a football issue”
Jun 30, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT
Will either side be able to rebound from the latest incident?
Jun 30, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT
The Ivorian international, 28, appeared set for a 4-year deal worth about $14.5 million.
Jun 30, 2015, 6:41 PM EDT
There hasn’t been a single clean sheet kept in a match-up of these two teams since 2010. Should be a fun one.
Jun 30, 2015, 6:12 PM EDT
Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe return from their yellow card suspensions to play starting roles in Tuesday’s Women’s World Cup semifinal.
Jun 30, 2015, 5:51 PM EDT
There’s haves, have nots and have a lots, and the Los Angeles Galaxy are in the final category.
Jun 30, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT
A long-standing right bone bruise will keep the Houston Dynamo midfielder out of the upcoming Gold Cup.
Jun 30, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT
An incredibly-confident man who branded himself the “Godfather of women’s football” certainly won’t relish sitting this one out.
Jun 30, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
How to stay in touch with all the Open Cup action in Tuesday’s four games.
Jun 30, 2015, 3:11 PM EDT
Foxes decide to fire Pearson despite the greatest of “great escapes” during the 2014-15 season.
Jun 30, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT
The two best goalkeepers in the world square off in the Women’s World Cup semifinals.
Jun 30, 2015, 1:29 PM EDT
Find out how to watch the preseason tournament in Singapore live, here.
Jun 30, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT
With a huge World Cup encounter hours away, USWNT head coach Jill Ellis has a lot to ponder.
Jun 30, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
The Chelsea legend has left Stamford Bridge with a heavy heart after 11 years of success.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:43 AM EDT
Gareth Bale now has the chance to lift the UCL trophy in his hometown.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT
More whispers from around the PL. Here’s the latest gossip.
Jun 30, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
French midfielder on his way to Barca next season?
Jun 30, 2015, 7:52 AM EDT
The Red Devils have upped the ante, as Ramos wants out of Real.
- With the World Cup on the line, the USWNT gave us a vintage performance to savor 0
- United States defeats Germany, advances to Women’s World Cup final 2
- Reports: Galaxy on verge of landing El Tri star Dos Santos as “core player” 3
- Report: Sepp Blatter will not attend Women’s World Cup final 0
- Nigel Pearson fired as manager by Leicester City 2
- NBC Sports to air Barclays Asia Trophy as Arsenal, Everton and Stoke head to Singapore 0