Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Did the referee wreck the Clasico?

Did the referee wreck the Clasico?

The crunch clash in La Liga was littered with big calls, but did Alberto Undiano Mallenco get them all right? Two Sportmasta editors take opposing views
By David Atana & Sam Praise
A Clasico without controversy is a rare thing indeed and Sunday night's absorbing clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona brought the usual dose of accusations, counter-claims and question marks.

Barca's 4-3 win at the Santiago Bernabeu was punctuated by key decisions for referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco to make, and his calls left many arguing as to whether he had done his job correctly or not come full time.

The 40-year-old awarded a total of three second-half penalties and also administered his first red card of the season in dismissing Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos in the 65th minute. There were also other flashpoints, with Pepe and Cesc Fabregas going head-to-head late in the first half, but it was the decisions after the break that causes the most consternation.

But were the trio of spot-kicks all justifiable? And should Ramos really have seen red? Sportmasta's David Atana and Sam Praise offer differing theories on just how well Undiano Mallenco handled his Clasico assignment.


By David Atana

Of the three penalties awarded by referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco on Sunday, only one should have been awarded and that was Xabi Alonso’s foul on Andres Iniesta late in the game.

The first penalty, given to Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo, was outside the area and not even a foul – a terrible decision which the official may have tried to even out by the award of another spot kick to Barcelona for Ramos’ challenge on Neymar 10 minutes later.

The Brazilian threw himself theatrically to the ground and replays show there was little or no contact, so Ramos can consider himself extremely unlucky to concede – and much more to have been shown the red card.

At the time, it seemed fair in that both penalty awards were erroneous. Therefore, each team had benefited from a poor call and the scores were back level (at 3-3). But of course it wasn’t fair really because from that moment on, Madrid were down to 10 men and given a numerical advantage, Barca are very hard to stop.

Had the scores stayed level and each team finished the game with 11 players, Barca may still have gone on to win it, but we’ll never know.

Cristiano’s conspiracy talk and Ramos’ rant about pre-meditated decisions do no favours to Madrid or the players themselves, but the truth is that the referee’s mistakes did take some of the shine off what was a magnificent match and, in this case, seem to have influenced the final result as well. And from a neutral’s perspective, that’s a shame.

By Sam Praise
Once again, a major football match featuring 28 millionaires has descended into a slanging match with the poor referee stuck in the middle. Yet on this occasion, Alberto Undiano Mallenco did about as well as could be expected of anyone in his position.
The three penalties were the obvious talking points, and things didn’t start particularly well on that front for the Pamplona native. While he was clearly right to decide that Dani Alves had caught Cristiano Ronaldo’s left leg, the contact was made outside the box. The defender’s end position inside the area along with the man he had felled gave Undiano Mallenco the wrong impression, along with millions watching on TV before the second or third replay proved otherwise. On first sight, it looked a decent call.
Ramos’ sending-off was the key moment, and while it appeared to some that Neymar had taken a dive, TV evidence actually showed that the referee made the correct call. The Brazilian would have been able to get a shot away had Ramos not made contact with his heel as he made a run in front of the defender. It was minimal contact, but enough to halt the attacker’s run and, under the letter of the law, the man in the middle had no choice but to also award a red card.
Barcelona’s winning penalty was the most straight-forward of the lot. Xabi Alonso’s rash decision to amble into Andres Iniesta resulted in the justifiable award of a penalty that would settle the contest.
In a match of high emotion and incredible drama, the referee had a pretty good night
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