Red Card or Not: Champions League Edition

There were two huge red card decisions in this past week’s Champions League first leg ties. Each of the cards had massive impact not only on the matches, but on the overall ties. In both cases, English teams were facing formidable opponents (Barcelona and Bayern Munich, respectively) and found themselves giving up vital away goals after losing a man.

So, let’s play “Red Card or Not”!

(Note: I’m only dealing with the red cards in this post, not the associated penalties.)

Manchester City v. Barcelona
Martin Demichelis (on Lionel Messi)
Official: Jonas Eriksson (SWE)

There’s been something very interesting happening between all the swirl of Manuel Pellegrini’s shameful attack on Eriksson (and the subsequent UEFA investigation), or whether the foul was outside the box and therefore shouldn’t have been a penalty. In spite of that…

No one is disputing the red card.

No one, not Demichelis himself and not even Pellegrini, has said that Eriksson shouldn’t have given the red card for Demichelis’ sliding tackle on Messi. He was the last man and well beaten, and he went in (though he thought he was outside the box) knowing he’d probably sacrifice himself to stop the goal. You can argue about the PK all you want, but the red card is undeniable.

Red Card or Not?: Red Card


Arsenal v. Bayern Munich
Wojchiech Szczesny (on Arjen Robben)
Official: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA) 

This one was up for a bit more debate, particularly because Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng fouled Mesut Ozil in the box earlier, and came away with a penalty kick and a yellow card.

In this case, the goalkeeper raced out to meet Robben, who was all alone and clear on goal. They collided, and Robben ended up on the ground. A penalty was awarded and Szczesny was sent to the changing room. Arsene Wenger, who only agrees with calls that go his way, was apoplectic, accusing Robben of diving.

Szczesny got a lot of stick for his offensive hand gesture as he headed into the tunnel, which unfortunately takes away from how dignified he behaved on the pitch. No complaining, no arguing, no bullying the referee. Just removed his gloves and calmly walked off.

Now, Robben did make a meal of it, but the truth is he also just got steamrolled by a very big guy. And it’s clear from the video that Rizzoli (who is never very sympathetic to guys on the ground on his best days) wasn’t paying attention to Robben. He checked with his team to be sure it was denial of a goalscoring opportunity and showed the card.

You could argue this was harsh, and even Michael Platini said this triple punishment (penalty kick, red card, suspension) isn’t fair. But he also said that Rizzoli was working under the rules as they are, and that he was right on the call.

And he was. The ball was past Robben when the collision happened (something I’ve seen pointed out several times), but it was past Szczesny, too. And there were no other red shirts in the box. If he hadn’t been poleaxed, Robben was clear to goal. (Ha! Poleaxed! See what I did there?)

Last man. Goalscoring opportunity. Harsh, maybe. But, within the current Laws of the Game, the right call.

Red Card or Not? Red Card


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