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

Controversial red card sees Real Madrid eliminate Manchester United


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:

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)