The big red for Nani and the Red Devils? It was the wrong refereeing choice

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We will be fussing and fighting about the monumental decision from Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir for a while … so why wait?

Richard Farley already told you his opinion in an earlier ProSoccerTalk post. His verdict: correct choice.

My verdict: Not so much.

The decision that so roiled Sir Alex Ferguson and thousands around fabled Old Trafford, the highly controversial red card to Manchester United’s Nani for connecting chest-high with Real Madrid’s unlucky Alvaro Arbeloa, was far from the most egregious refereeing mistake I’ve ever seen. But it was wrong.

To be sure, going down 10 men is not the only reason Manchester United’s Champions League run is over. Robin van Persie needed to be better around goal. Wayne Rooney, too, on one point-blank volley.

Manchester United sat back too deep in defense after the red. (I mean, Ferguson’s men were still at home.) Plus, Jose Mourinho made the right sub, while Luka Modric and Diego Lopez were difference makers. So credit to Real Madrid.

That said … it was still the wrong refereeing choice.

I’m never one to say the rules should be adjusted for bigger matches. Rules are rules, so the old saw about how a referee “cannot decide a big match” is poppycock in my book.

But …

Big matches do deserve extra caution in rendering such a weighty choice. And they do probably deserve a little more benefit of the doubt.

It’s worth going to the nearside referee’s assistant: “What did you see?”

It’s worth going to the fourth official: “What did you see?”

We didn’t see Cakir doing this, but we don’t know if this critical back-and-forth was being conducted through the headsets. It may have been. Either way, all three should be in 100 percent agreement that this thing amounts to the reddest of reds. And I just do not see how that could be.

Nani’s eyes were on the ball. This was incident of “head hunting.”

Yes it was dangerous, reckless and potentially injurious. It was a poor choice on Nani’s part to fly in so high, so forcefully with a Real Madrid man potentially nearby.

But I don’t see how anyone can make a compelling case that Nani absolutely knew there was a Real man nearby. In this case, being careless, even dangerously so, doesn’t rise to felony level. It’s a bad misdemeanor.

This was no “Nigel de Jong;” that notorious stunt in a huge World Cup 2010 moment was a full-on, from the front, intentional Dutch shoe aimed center mass, horribly dangerous, right in the chest. That’s a red card – only it wasn’t during South African final because too much benefit of the doubt was provided.

This time, not enough was.

Nani deserved a yellow.

USMNT AT HALF: Dempsey, Gomez trade goals in chippy first half

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
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Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey combined for another goal, and the USMNT leads Panama 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier Tuesday in Panama City.

A physical, chippy first half didn’t see many clear cut chances and was 0-0 after 38. minutes.

[ STREAM: Live on Telemundo Deportes ]

The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening half-hour.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

STREAM LIVE: USMNT looks for 3 more points in Panama

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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The United States looks to finish the international break in an automatic qualifier spot in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table when it faces Panama in Panama City at 10:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

A lot of the faces are the same from the 6-0 demolition of Honduras in California on Friday, though John Brooks and Sebastian Lletget are out with injury.

Jermaine Jones replaces Lletget while Tim Ream moves into the fray for Brooks. Geoff Cameron played Friday’s match with a minor injury, and moves out of the XI for Graham Zusi.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Ream, Zusi; Bradley, Jones, Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore

Subs: Bingham, Rimando; Beasley, Besler, Camron, Zimmerman; Acosta, Arriola, Bedoya, Kljestan, McCarty, Pulisic; Wondolowski

Reyes header gives Mexico three points in T&T (video)

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Diego Reyes’ 58th minute header off a corner kick gave Mexico a lead it wouldn’t give up in a 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago at Hasely Crawford Stadium in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

The win gives Mexico a table-topping 10 points, seven ahead of last-place T&T.

[ MORE: Honduras 1-1 Costa Rica ]

The Soca Warriors were in fine, stingy form early, and looked to have gone ahead on the counterattack when Joevin Jones belted a left-footer into the Mexico goal.

The linesman, however, ruled that Jones was offside. He almost certainly was not, as Mexico’s supreme luck in CONCACAF play continued for at least one night.

Hector Herrera hammered a shot off the far goal post early in the second half as Mexico attempted to grab control.

T&T goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams jammed Miguel Layun’s shot over the bar moments before the breakthrough from Reyes.

Williams then saved Javier Hernandez’s 64th minute offering as Mexico looked to put three points to bed.

Joevin Jones won a free kick in the 76th minute that gave a brief moment of light to T&T’s hopes, but Jones hit the wall and Mexico cleared the ball.

Honduras holds Costa Rica 1-1

AP Photo/Moises Castillo
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Honduras did the United States a favor by taking a point from visiting Costa Rica in Tuesday’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula.

Anthony Lozano pushed a 35th minute chance past an indecisive Keylor Navas, as Los Catrachos set the stage for a hopeful three points.

[ STREAM: T&T-Mexico, Panama-USMNT ]

Vancouver Whitecaps center back Kendall Waston’s haphazard defending helped allow the goal, but he scored off a late Costa Rica corner kick to ensure Costa Rica will finish the international break in second place.

With four points, Honduras moves ahead of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States before both sides play Tuesday.

Costa Rica beat the U.S. 4-0 in 2016, while the Yanks battered Honduras 6-0 on Friday.