Football

Buffon blasts ref for awarding penalty, but Poll says it's right call

Juve goalkeeper blasts ref Oliver for awarding penalty, but ex-official Poll says it's the right call

Gianluigi Buffon's Champions League quest ended with a display of wild-eyed fury, a red card and bitter recriminations after seeing his Juventus side knocked out in the quarter-finals by Real Madrid yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Mario Mandzukic's two first-half headers and Blaise Matuidi's 61st-minute effort had helped the Italian side take a 3-0 lead at the Bernabeu, pulling them level on aggregate with half an hour left.

But, in injury-time, with extra-time just 30 seconds away, Real's Lucas Vazquez tumbled under the challenge of Juve defender Mehdi Benatia and referee Michael Oliver awarded a hotly disputed penalty.

Buffon, who is set to retire at the end of this season and has yet to win the Champions League, was so incensed with the decision that he rounded on the English official, jostling him and screaming in his face.

An alarmed Oliver, also being hounded by other Juve players, showed the 40-year-old goalkeeper a red card.

Buffon's replacement Wojciech Szczesny could get nowhere near Cristiano Ronaldo's bullet penalty as Real won 4-3 on aggregate.

Buffon blamed Oliver for what he felt were two injustices - the penalty and the sending-off - long after the match had ended.

He told Mediaset Premium: "It was a 10th of a penalty... a human being cannot destroy dreams like that at the end of an extraordinary comeback on a dubious situation.

"Clearly you cannot have a heart in your chest, but a garbage bin.

"On top of that, if you don't have the character to walk on a pitch like this in a stadium like this, you can sit in the stands with your wife, your kids, drinking your Sprite and eating crisps.

"You cannot ruin the dreams of a team. I could've told the referee anything at that moment, but he had to understand the degree of the disaster he was creating.

"If you can't handle the pressure and have the courage to make a decision, then you should just sit in the stands and eat your crisps."

However, former EPL referee Graham Poll said Oliver was courageous enough in making the right call in both instances.

He wrote in his Daily Mail column: "Michael Oliver justified the decision with some very strong but correct refereeing in the Bernabeu.

"With the scores level in a gripping quarter-final heading for extra-time, Oliver was courageous enough to award a penalty.

"Surrounded and disgracefully harassed by half a dozen or so menacing Juventus players, led by their talismanic captain, Oliver - 33 - stayed calm and correctly dismissed Gianluigi Buffon for his aggressive protests.

"What a pity the FA didn't promote Oliver sooner so he could have been eligible for the World Cup."

Buffon had to be restrained by his teammates before reluctantly leaving the pitch, marring what could have been his finest night as he had been given an ovation by the Bernabeu crowd after half-time.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane would have recognised better than anyone the poignant nature of all this, reported Reuters.

The last match in the Frenchman's glorious career, of course, saw him sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final, in which Italy won a penalty shoot-out thanks to Buffon.

"I don't think he deserved to be sent off," Zidane said.

"In any case, this should not erase everything Buffon has done for football. He's been an enormous player."

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, also upset with the penalty, has called for the video assistant referee (VAR) to be used in the Champions League.

The controversial VAR, which will be used at this year's World Cup for the first time, has been adopted by the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A, but the idea has not been universally welcomed with Uefa.

Said Agnelli: "A goal-line official behind the line isn't the same thing as an official in front of a video replay.

"If Uefa is not ready, then they need to train people quickly, just as Serie A did, plus in Germany, Portugal and elsewhere."

Football