(CNN)“Anger and Pride,” said Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport’s headline. Barcelona-based newspaper Sport dubbed it: “The Robbery of the Century.”
It was anger that gripped Gianluigi Buffon — the Juventus goalkeeper who was very much at the center of the Italian club’s dramatic Champions League quarterfinal exit to Real Madrid — both in the match’s final minutes and afterward as he spoke to the media.
Buffon was incensed that English referee Michael Oliver awarded a penalty deep in injury time after Juve defender Medhi Benatia pushed Lucas Vazquez in the box and also appeared to catch the Spaniard with his left leg. Vazquez, seemingly, would have had a clear attempt on goal from five yards if not for the contact.
The legendary Italian keeper then saw red for bumping Oliver and ripping into him verbally, with Cristiano Ronaldo keeping his cool amid all the furore to convert the ensuing penalty in the 97th minute and put the twice defending champions through 4-3 on aggregate despite a 3-1 loss on the night at the Bernabeu.
Afterward the 40-year-old World Cup winner — likely playing in his final Champions League game with retirement on the horizon — was still fuming. He claimed Oliver crumbled.
“It was a tenth of a penalty,” Buffon told Mediaset Premium in quotes carried by the Football Italia website. “I know the referee saw what he saw, but it was certainly a dubious incident.
“Clearly you cannot have a heart in your chest, but a garbage bin. On top of that, if you don’t have the character to walk on a pitch like this in a stadium like this, you can sit in the stands with your wife, your kids, drinking your Sprite and eating crisps.
“You cannot ruin the dreams of a team. I could have told the referee anything at that moment, but he had to understand the degree of the disaster he was creating. If you can’t handle the pressure and have the courage to make a decision, then you should just sit in the stands and eat your crisps.”
CNN contacted the Premier League offering Oliver the right of reply to Buffon’s comments but it said in an email: “We won’t be putting any comment out on behalf of Michael or the Professional Game Match Officials Limited.”
Juve president Andrea Agnelli was as irate as Buffon, claiming UEFA kept assigning referees who were against Italian sides.
He referred to the first leg, too, when the Old Lady’s star attacker, Paulo Dybala, was sent off for two yellow cards in a 3-0 defeat in Turin and thus missed the second leg.
“For some reason, the vanity of the refereeing designator is trying to scientifically prove he is unbiased and keeps assigning referees who are against Italian clubs,” Agnelli, who called for the introduction of video assisted refereeing (VAR) in the Champions League, told Mediaset.
“Players make mistakes, so do referees, but this official completely lost control of the situation, A referee in Madrid for the quarterfinal must have seen the first leg, realize the Dybala red card was excessive and understand the various situations.
“The referee tonight was in total chaos.”
Later this year VAR will be used at the World Cup for the first time, although in February UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said the system wouldn’t be used in next season’s Champions League.
Agnelli’s comments, in particular, may catch the attention of UEFA. And when contacted by CNN, the governing body said it was “waiting for the relevant information from our disciplinary department” to see if any action would be taken against Juventus.
Juventus’ Serie A rivals, though, might say it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Juventus was memorably stripped of two Serie A titles and relegated from the top flight for influencing referees as part of the Calciopoli scandal of 2006, the year Buffon led Italy to World Cup glory over current Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane’s France.
After Spurs were knocked out by Juve in the last-16, the London club’s manager Mauricio Pochettino said the Italian club “have the habit to win and the habit to put pressure on the referee. It’s a club with a culture to try to do everything to help the team.”
Clear penalty, says Ronaldo
Ronaldo coolly deposited his shot past Buffon’s replacement Wojciech Szczesny even after a lengthy wait and the best attempts of Juventus players to put him off prior to the kick.
The Portuguese, who had scored twice — including a wonder goal — in the first leg was left in no doubt as to whether it was a penalty.
“I don’t understand why they’re complaining,” he said in the mixed zone, according to Football Italia.
“Lucas was tackled from behind and if they don’t give him the penalty, it’s a goal.”
Juventus’ near miraculous comeback in the battle of last year’s finalists came after Roma overturned a three-goal deficit to eliminate Real Madrid’s archrival, Barcelona, on the away-goals rule Tuesday. Bayern Munich meanwhile advanced 2-1 on aggregate against Sevilla following a 0-0 draw in Munich.
Liverpool joins Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Roma in Friday’s semifinal draw. The Reds upset runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City 5-1 on aggregate.