UEFA versus Real Madrid and Barcelona

Uefa have initiated disciplinary cased against both Real Madrid and Barcelona in the aftermath of their diving contest Champions League semi-final clash on Wednesday.

UEFA’s case against Real Madrid:

The throwing of missiles, a pitch invasion, the red card shown to Pepe, the dismissal of coach José Mourinho, as well as the inappropriate statement given by Mr Mourinho to the media after the match.

UEFA’s case against Barcelona:

The red card shown to reserve goalkeeper José Pinto in a melee as the teams returned to their dressing rooms at half-time.

Both cases will be heard by the Uefa Control and Disciplinary Body on 6 May.

While this was expected – you don’t get away with claiming that UEFA are pulling strings to get Barcelona into the final or insinuate that Barcelona win because of refereeing decisions without getting UEFA involved – there are two major problems with this that UEFA are pointedly ignoring:

1. The Diving

From Sergio and Pedro, both of whom deserved to go into the book after their shenanigans.

From Dani Alves, who pretended that his foot was broken before hopping off the stretcher on the sidelines and jogging back into the game.

All three are very good players, Dani being invariably the best of the trio, but something had to be done last night to stop the diving, and the ref didn’t do anything. And since UEFA is happy to act on simulation in limited instances when they become major media issues (Eduardo) but not when they’re secondary issues, this will keep on happening.

2. The Kicking

Diarra, and Pepe, needed to be cautioned much earlier in the game for their rough challenges. Madrid’s tactics were negative, yes, perhaps even more negative than Inter at San Siro in last year’s semifinal, but the referee could have done something on both ends by clamping down on the fouls and the diving.

3. The timing of the review

It’s a shame that the incidents will not be reviewed before the second leg. Particularly in four cases where there needs to be immediate action.

  • Pepe’s red card was unjust – a raised foot but going for the ball and the referee’s reaction was influenced by a) Pepe’s roughhouse tactics from before and b) Dani’s theatrics. Not even a yellow card. If UEFA were to seriously review that red card (and not hide behind the ‘referee’s decision is final’ stand), Pepe should be free to play in the second leg with his red card rescinded.
  • Pinto’s red card has been unfairly blamed on Arbeloa. When Arbeloa was walking off the pitch, Keita came to him to argue about something, most likely the clash with Pedro just before half-time (a cynical body-check but Pedro’s reactions were worth a bronze medal). Arbeloa, presumably still ‘in the zone’, shoved Keita away. Pinto took offense at that and came to Arbeloa to remonstrate, who shoved Pinto away too. Pinto went berserk after that, hence the melee (which Arbeloa calmly avoided while he kept walking into the tunnel) and red card.

    Pinto grossly over-reacted, so a straight red card is fair. If you look at the replays, especially Arbeloa’s reactions during the pushing and shoving, he’s not even concerned at what’s going on around him, he just wants to get back to the dressing room. If you go up to someone to complain, and he doesn’t dignify your whining with a reply, you’re not ‘entitled’ to throw a punch at him, regardless of how many titles you’ve won sitting on the bench.

  • Mourinho’s sending off for sarcastically applauding the fourth official was again unfair. The issue is consistency, and it points to the ref losing his grip on the situation more than anything else. Either managers are uniformly censured for abusing the ref (and sarcasm is hardly abuse when you consider the rants and shoving matches managers are involved in), or they should be allowed some leeway.
  • Mourinho’s post-match comments will get him a touchline ban. Yes, I know I just said his sending off was unfair, but that’s that situation, this is different. Do I agree with Mourinho? That’s irrelevant. UEFA will deem his comments as unsubstantial, offensive and damaging to the integrity of the game, and therefore charge him and the club (toucline ban + fine).

    For what it’s worth, Mourinho is right to complain about the Pepe decision, just as Chelsea were right to complain about the penalty decisions not going their way at Stamford Bridge, but there’s a way to do it, and Mourinho’s rants were no better than Drogba / Ballack. Regardless of whether the referee is right or wrong (and he was wrong), players and managers invite censure if their actions directly bring the game into disrepute (although enforcement of this rule is so inconsistent that it drives this blogger into a mouth-foaming rant).

  • At the end of the day, UEFA had a chance here to draw the line and tell players that no diving would be tolerated. They had a chance to tell both sides – BEFORE the second leg – that similar conduct would not be tolerated. By ignoring to review certain issues (diving from both sides) and by timing the review after the second leg (when it would have made a strong statement to improve conduct for the second leg), they’ve missed a big chance to improve the situation, although they’ve done their bit to cover their arses.

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