This was Gigi Buffon in the 61st minute of Juventus’s Champions League quarterfinal tie against Real Madrid on Wednesday: jubilant, nearly vindicated, and in tenuous control of his limbs. It was intoxicating. Having been down three goals coming into the match, Juventus were now tied. SCENES.
The keeper down on the away end, Keylor Navas, dropped a looping, harmless ball at the feet of Blaise Matuidi, who stumbled it into the net. It wasn’t easy on the eyes by any means, but that was beside the point. After going into the second leg with a sizable hill to climb, for a moment, Juventus could score one more and then move onto the semifinals. And then maybe the final, and perhaps the podium, where Buffon, who seems likely to retire at the end of the season, would lift the jug ears for the first time in his [Googles] gracious: TWENTY-THREE YEAR career.
Yeah, about that. This was Buffon in the 93rd minute. Bewildered, betrayed, incensed. He was sent off in what could very well be his final professional game. (For what it’s worth, I don’t buy it.)
Drama, drama, drama!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) April 11, 2018
Here's another look at the penalty decision in stoppage time and the red card to Gigi Buffon. pic.twitter.com/BJHJd7rP08
Normally synonymous with defensive solidity, Juventus were uniquely open the entire 90 minutes on account of pressing forward to cover a three-goal deficit. Madrid was kept at bay with last-ditch interceptions, tackles, and parries, but literally 30 seconds from time, they found a breakthrough. In the form of a penalty decision. Which felt—to Juventus players, fans, and a large swath of neutrals, I’m sure—unjust.
Let’s be very clear: However much heart and effort you’re supposed to show for a 50-50, especially in the dying embers of a game, if you (Medhi Benatia) go through someone’s (Lucas Vázquez’s) back to win one, the referee is within his or her rights to blow the whistle. It’s a foul anywhere on the field, including the goal area. Further, Juventus can’t exactly claim the moral high ground in a refereeing controversy.
On the other hand, the rule book, on matters like this one, is intentionally vague, allowing for the referee’s discretion. And so I understand Buffon’s frustration, even if that was, categorically, a penalty:
EHM. BUFFON WORDS.— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) April 11, 2018
Buffon: “The decision of ref Oliver was the one of animal, of a beast, not of a human being”
Cristiano Ronaldo roofed it, by the way, and showed the world his 32-pack again. There’s always next season—well, maybe.