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Cristiano Ronaldo red card: Did referee Felix Brych get it wrong?

Thursday 20th September 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo was issued a straight red card by referee Felix Brych as Juventus faced Valencia at the Mestalla. The Portuguese captain was making his first Champions League appearance for the Italian champions after his remarkable achievement in the competition with Real Madrid.

As could be expected, he received a hostile reception from the majority of Valencia fans thanks to his past exploits for the club's domestic rival. He was usually their tormentor-in-chief as he scored important goals against the club.

For many fans, that's enough grounds to dislike him. They made no secret of that in their gestures, boos and jeers directed at him. But Ronaldo is no stranger to that. It's part of the price he pays for his stupendous success.

It, however, appeared the players were also poised to give the forward a rough time as well, making sure he was in no position to do any damage. And there's nothing wrong with that if it's done fairly.

Early on in the game, he was seen complaining to the referee about being held or unnecessarily fouled. One of such occasions was when Valencia captain Danny Parejo consciously blocked him while he made his way towards the penalty box to attack a cross. It happened off-the-ball. Once again, he reported to the referee who then warned Parejo.

The key incident in the first half-hour of the match then came in the 28th minute when the 33-year-old tangled with the home side's defender Jeison Murillo in the area. Murillo hit the floor and while still on the ground Ronaldo appeared to grab his hair. The defender then rose to confront the Juventus forward before they were separated by teammates.

Replays show it was more or less a tap on the head that should not result in a yellow card much less a straight red. Ronaldo was flabbergasted. The Champions League record goalscorer did not know whether to laugh or cry as he fell to the ground in astonishment.

When the effect of the decision finally dawned on him, he was distraught. Ronaldo wept like a baby while trying to make his case to the officials before he had to leave the pitch. It's worth noting that the former Real Madrid talisman has never received a red card in over 154 appearances in the competition. That's not to say he should not be given one if he deserves it.

But not in this instance. Parejo's hit on the forward and the high boot-to-the-head tackle on the Juventus player that led to the penalty were both worse offences than Ronaldo's. Yet none of them got a red card.

This was clearly another incident that shows the effect of human error. Although the Bianconeri did go on to win the game 2-0, on another day and against a stronger side, the decision could have been costly. Still, Juventus are set to miss their starman for the next one, two or even three games in the competition. That could include home and away legs against Manchester United.

Unfortunately, the referee did not see the incident as it was off-the-ball. He had to consult with the match official positioned beside the goal to make a decision. Given the nature of the incident, it is unlikely even he saw it in real time. But how can a competition that prides itself as the crème de la crème of club football be left at the mercy of officials’ wrong judgement?

The football world has made giant strides forward with the introduction of Video Assistant Referee. Its use at the World Cup proved very successful despite initial scepticism. Decisions like these are the very reason for the development and use of the technology. UEFA should be at the forefront of promoting the VAR rather than giving excuses against its use.

Referee Brych cannot claim his decision was the correct one because he just didn't see what happened. Not even the goal side official can claim he did. At best, he relied on the reaction of the players to make his decision. And as is usually the case was overwhelmed by the moment. The VAR is meant to help out in such cases. How can we live in a tech-driven age and still make stone-age decisions by relying on inaccurate human judgement?

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Emmanuel Odey

Emmanuel is a freelance football journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can follow him on Twitter for more.

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