Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey believes Michael Oliver showed ‘a lot of courage’ as he awarded Real Madrid an injury-time penalty in their dramatic Champions League quarter-final against Juventus on Wednesday, as he suggested the official was also correct in his decision to send off Juve captain Gianluigi Buffon.
After the Italian champions produced a remarkable display to draw the tie level after a 3-0 first leg win for Real Madrid in Turin, there was a final twist in the tale as the home side were awarded a penalty following Mehdi Benatia’s challenge on Lucas Vazquez.
A furious Buffon was dismissed before before the penalty was taken amid chaotic scenes the Bernabeu, with Halsey telling Yahoo Sport the English official at the centre of the drama made all the right calls.
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“I think it was a clear penalty and Buffon had to be sent off for his actions,” Halsey told us. “You look at the incident and Benatia has got the wrong side of the Real Madrid player when he makes the challenge, with Michael showing a lot of courage to make the right decision.
“If that penalty was awarded in the 65th minute of the game, I don’t think we would have seen anything like the commotion we witnessed from the Juventus players and they were fortunate that Benatia was not sent off along with Buffon for the denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity.”
Halsey suggested Buffon’s loss of control as he charged at the referee along with a clutch of Juventus players was unacceptable, as he suspects UEFA officials will have been impressed by the Oliver’s first big test on a Champions League stage.
“Buffon had to be sent off as while you can understand his frustration giving the circumstances of the incident and its timing in the game, you simply cannot charge at a referee like that and as he speaks English, some abusive language may have been used as well.
“UEFA will look at the behaviour of the Juventus players and further sanctions may follow, but Michael will come out of this with his reputation enhanced.
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“He was promoted to the elite panel of UEFA referees in January and this was the first time he has taken charge of a game of this magnitude. While there are some areas he can improve in, he got the big calls right at the Bernabeu and showed great composure in awarding the penalty and dealing with the situation at the end of the game.
“It is a real shame that we don’t have an English referee at the World Cup this summer, but Michael has emerged as our No.1 official now and I would expect to see him getting more high profile appointments after his performance in the Real Madrid v Juventus game.”
Mark Halsey is a former Premier League referee and works with You Are The Ref as senior referee coach