Skip to content

Controversial red card sees Real Madrid eliminate Manchester United

Mar 5, 2013, 4:45 PM EDT

Manchester United v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Getty Images

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).

(MORE: Opposition viewpoint from ProSoccerTalk; this was the wrong decision)

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:

Latest Posts
  1. Cruz Azul defeats Toluca, claims record sixth CONCACAF crown

    Apr 24, 2014, 12:36 AM EDT

    cruz_azul Getty Images

    Mariano Pavone’s first half goal in Toluca delivered La Maquina a record-breaking title.

  2. Hat trick from Wright-Phillips gives New York two wins in a row

    Apr 23, 2014, 11:56 PM EDT

    bradley_wright_philllips AP

    The Red Bulls’ slow start is quickly becoming a distant memory as New York posted a 4-0 win over visiting Houston.

  3. NWSL Digest: Feeling the Spirit as we move past Week 2

    Apr 23, 2014, 8:26 PM EDT

    NWSL logo

    A future star makes a quick impact as Washington puts week one behind them.

  4. Five moments that mattered in Bayern Munich’s trip to Real Madrid

    Apr 23, 2014, 5:55 PM EDT

    cristiano_ronaldo Getty Images

    Ronaldo pronounced fit; Benzema breaks through, and Casillas stones Götze.

  5. PHOTOS: Liverpool reveal ambitious Anfield expansion plans

    Apr 23, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    Source: Liverpool Football Club Source: Liverpool Football Club

    Incredible plans to expand Anfield revealed, as public will now have their say:

  6. Three things we learned from Real Madrid’s win vs. Bayern Munich

    Apr 23, 2014, 4:51 PM EDT

    arjen_robben_xabi_alonso Getty Images

    Tedious Tiki-Taka, counter-attacking clinic and gilt-edge chances:

  7. Benzema goal holds up as Real Madrid claim 1-0 lead over Bayern Munich

    Apr 23, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    karim_benzema_real_madrid AP

    Striker’s 19th minute score gives the nine-time champions a 1-0 lead ahead of next week’s second leg.

  8. VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Week 35

    Apr 23, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT

    Raheem Sterling has been on fire as Liverpool surge up the standings. AP

    Find out who won the PL Player of the Week award, right here:

  9. VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week – Week 35

    Apr 23, 2014, 3:36 PM EDT

    connor_wickham Getty Images

    Which players made the PL team of the week? Find out, right here:

  10. Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 7

    Apr 23, 2014, 2:54 PM EDT

    obafemi_martins_dan_kennedy AP

    The top two remain unchanged, but there’s a major shakeup in elsewhere near the top of our weekly rankings.

  11. DC Brew-nited: Team, keeper among MLS folks in the craft beer game

    Apr 23, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT

    http://www.dcbrau.com/ http://www.dcbrau.com/

    Andrew Dykstra wants to brew you a beer, and several teams have specific offerings in mind.

  12. Star-studded lineups unveiled for Real and Bayern; Bale on bench

    Apr 23, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT

    Real Madrid v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Getty Images

    The big guns will be firing for Bayern Munich and Real Madrid at the Bernabéu, and there’s plenty of ammunition on both benches if needed.

  13. Moyes statement on dismissal; Reports say he was recruiting to the end

    Apr 23, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-CHELSEA Getty Images

    Reports say David Moyes was “seething” at what he perceived to be an unprofessional dismissal from Manchester United.

  14. Head coach Marc Wilmots says Adnan Januzaj will play for Belgium

    Apr 23, 2014, 12:52 PM EDT

    Januzaj Getty Images

    Bad news for England, as Januzaj is headed for a brand new Belgium kit.

  15. Who’s in across Europe? Glancing at the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League

    Apr 23, 2014, 12:11 PM EDT

    Portugal Soccer AP

    Some slots are firm, while there’s plenty to be settled in the next few weeks. Let’s take a look at whose guaranteed to make the group stage

  16. Landon Donovan praises David Moyes, says he’d be welcome in MLS

    Apr 23, 2014, 11:41 AM EDT

    Donovan-Moyes

    Speaking with Sports Illustrated’s SI Now, Donovan spent some time lauding David Moyes and lamenting his dismissal from Manchester United.

  17. WATCH: Rafa Marquez’s latest blatant, unnecessary attempt to injure

    Apr 23, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT

    Rafa Marquez AP

    He’s simply one of the worst that’s ever played.

  18. Newcastle veteran Ameobi takes shot at club’s transfer failings

    Apr 23, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Newcastle United v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Shola Ameobi has played a lot of roles during his time at Newcastle; His latest role is vocal critic of the club’s transfer practices.

  19. Jermaine Jones’ tattoo will have opponents seeing stars (and stripes)

    Apr 23, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT

    Jermaine Jones 2

    The USMNT midfielder posted this shot to his Instagram account on Tuesday, proclaiming his new stars and stripes knee tattoo complete.

  20. Liverpool’s Ayre to spend this summer: “It will cost what it costs”

    Apr 23, 2014, 8:48 AM EDT

    Leaders in Sport Getty Images

    The Champions League will make Liverpool more attractive, says its managing director, and the club will spend money to fortify its team.

Featured video

FIRED: Where David Moyes went wrong