Sanchez handled the ball to stop Shinji Kagawa's goal-bound attempt, and the referee had no hesitation in brandishing the red card and pointing to the penalty spot.
Former Manchester United midfielder Kagawa scored from 12 yards, handing Colombia the worst possible start to their tournament before they pulled level through a Juan Quintero free-kick later in the half.
Indeed, the nation were without James Rodriguez, the midfielder who lit up the 2014 tournament in Brazil, from the start due to injury, though he did come off the bench in the second half.
Social media, of course, had its say.
Wow! Red card, deliberate handball & penalty in the 1st 3 minutes! #COLJPN— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) June 19, 2018
PENALTY. RED CARD. SHENANIGANS. I LOVE THIS GAME.— Carl Anka (@Ankaman616) June 19, 2018
Carlos Sanchez is 32 years old. I know there's instinct and adrenaline, but saving a goalbound shot with your hand in an age of VAR just minutes into a WC game is the ultimate bonehead play.— Gabriele Marcotti (@Marcotti) June 19, 2018
Well that’s literally the worst way to start a World Cup. Carlos Sanchez thinking he’s Suarez causes a penalty and is sent off after 3 minutes...— Juan “WorldCup” Direction (@JuanDirection58) June 19, 2018
Colombia lose a goal and their most important player after 2 minutes.— Simon Edwards (@SimonEdwardsSAF) June 19, 2018
Sanchez is very consistent and always wants the ball in the middle, a player they can’t replace.
One thing we aren't talking about is how Carlos Sánchez actually made an excellent reflex save.— Miriti Murungi (@NutmegRadio) June 19, 2018