On an evening of intensity and high expectation, when two of the worlds biggest clubs clash on the main stage of European football, it was the officials that took the lime light.
Manchester United vs Real Madrid, it had an impact whenever uttered from the lips of millions of football fans across the globe. The players on show, the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson going head to head. This footballing spectacle had it all, so why the hint of disappointment in the words preceding the matches dissection? Yes, another refereeing decision takes centre stage, on the biggest stage of all.
The game started with these two heavy weights of European football trading blows, sparring and testing each others nerve in the Old Trafford ring. With United making first contact through the guard of Spanish defence when Giggs on his colossal 1000th appearance for United found a towering Nemanja Vidic from a fine in-swinging right sided corner, Vidic's thumping header crashing back off the upright before striking Welbeck and landing at the feet of Madrid keeper Diego Lopez.
Ferguson emphasised the importance of his team converting their chances at the break and they responded almost immediately as the ever present Giggs combined with Rafael down the right, before Welbeck and Van Persie were kept out, only for Nani to take possession from Raphael Varane's half converted clearance and force a cross of which Ramos could only find his own net. United were in the ascendancy and trading blows with the very best.
For all of Manchester United's efforts, vigour and commitment in and out of possession they became to emerge on top, at least until they were dealt a killer haymaker from the man in the middle.
Nani, impressing on his chance in the starting line up looked to take down a high ball coming across his front, failing to see Arbeloa chasing it down from behind him and the pair clashed in what looked like an accidental coming together of two players giving everything for their respective clubs. Referee Cuneyt Cakir however didn't take this understanding, proposing Nani unfairly and intently raised his foot into the charging Spaniard and Nani saw red, straight red. Players and fans from both clubs seemed bemused by the decision, Mourinho embarrassed, Ferguson outraged, Nani departed.
The hotly but fairly contested bout between these two footballing giants was all over.
It took Madrid, now playing against a disheartened ten men just 10 and 13 minutes to put United out of reach. A fantastic goal to start the heartbreak came from the somewhat out of favour substitute Luka Modric, unfortunate not to claim the headlines for himself after drifting across the outside of the United box left to right and unleashing a superb right footed smash in off the diving and stretching De Gea's post and into the net. The second from Madrid of course came from the man of the occasion.
Higuain trading a one two with Ozil in the United penalty box before sliding the ball to the back post and the stretched foot of Cristiano Ronaldo. Apologetic in his celebration, showing no enjoyment of his 41st goal of the season coming against his old club, he simply mutes and returns to the fray.
And that was that, Real saw out the final minutes with more unconverted chances while United still bravely carried an attacking threat but the mountain left to climb was too much.
In a world where sport has adorned to the help of ever progressing technology in more or less every field, why is that our nations most beloved and well celebrated across the world is still stuttering and stumbling in the dark.
"Sepp" Blatter please stand up.
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