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Real Madrid v Juventus

Not like this, Gigi! Sad & sorry end for Buffon's Champions League dream

00:01 BST 12/04/2018
Buffon Oliver Real Madrid Juventus Champions League
The Italian icon, one of the game's good guys, was sent off for a furious outburst against referee Michael Oliver, which continued after full-time

We knew the end was coming. But not like this. As Gianluigi Buffon walked off the pitch at the Santiago Bernabeu, he was treated to the predicted standing ovation.

However, what made this such a strange, sad sight was that the Juventus goalkeeper, one of the game's true gentlemen, didn't even acknowledge the applause of the Real Madrid fans as he left the field. 

He was fuming, not over his straight red card for dissent, but what had gone before.

In the dying seconds of injury time, referee Michael Oliver penalised Medhi Benatia for his clumsy challenge on Lucas Vazquez, presenting Real with a chance to win an absorbing Champions League quarter-final tie 4-3 on aggregate. 

With Cristiano Ronaldo on spot-kick duties, a goal was almost a given. Hence, the furious reaction from the legendary goalkeeper and his team-mates.

Oliver decided that the Bianconeri captain had over-stepped the mark. For the first time in his Champions League career, Buffon was sent off. 

His 117th – and probably final – appearance in Europe's premier cup competition had ended in uncharacteristic rage. 

Every competitive sportsman is susceptible to the red mist, of course. We can all do things we regret in the heat of the moment.

The truly surprising – and perhaps unforgivable – thing here, though, was that Buffon hadn't calmed down by the time he faced the TV cameras afterwards either, calling Oliver's very humanity into question during an emotional and explosive interview with Mediaset Premium.

"I know the referee saw what he saw, but it was certainly a dubious incident," he argued. "Not clear-cut. And in a dubious incident in the 93rd minute, you cannot award [a penalty] at this point.

“The team gave its all, but a human being cannot destroy dreams like that at the end of an extraordinary comeback on a dubious situation.

“Clearly, you cannot have a heart in your chest, but a garbage bin."

It was a remarkable tirade, one unbecoming of the man. Buffon being Buffon, he also took time out to praise Real Madrid's players and fans, even claiming that the hosts deserved to go through on the balance of both games.

However, he refused to relent when it came to Oliver, his voice cracking as he expressed his disgust with the English official's perceived lack of competence and class.

"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," he fumed.

“You cannot ruin the dreams of a team. I could’ve told the referee anything at that moment, but he had to understand the degree of the disaster he was creating."

Perhaps it was Buffon who didn't truly understand the mess he was creating, though. This was a personal attack; he had gone too far.

His frustration and his fury were undeniably understandable. While the penalty decision was debatable, what is beyond dispute is that the winning goal it produced had been totally undeserved. 

Juventus had played Real Madrid off their own pitch. In one of the most remarkable Champions League comebacks ever seen, they had overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit in just over an hour – and at the home of the European champions.

Mario Mandzukic had been immense, netting two back-post headers in the first half, while Douglas Costa had terrorised Marcelo on the right flank.

Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi had all stepped up in midfield, with the Bosnian particularly impressive, using the ball intelligently, as well as it winning it back more times (11) than any other player on the pitch.

The defence had also been flawless – until they lost Vazquez in the dying seconds of the game. And that is the true source of Juve's frustration; where the blame really lies for the game-deciding goal.

For the one and only time on the night, they switched off when the ball was hoisted towards Ronaldo at the back post, forcing Benatia to attempt a risky recovery tackle on Vazquez inside his own six-yard box. 

Their frustration was, thus, understandable. As Buffon had claimed, they had at least deserved extra-time. And yes, perhaps VAR would have made a difference, as Juve president Andrea Agnelli claimed afterwards.

Then again, the penalty decision provoked differing views even among those who had witnessed the replays several times and from several angles.

VAR probably wouldn't have prevented the ugly scenes we saw at the end of the game either, with Giorgio Chiellini accusing Real's players of having paid the officials and Massimiliano Allegri wondering what on earth the suspended Sergio Ramos was doing in the Bernabeu tunnel for the closing minutes.

Yes, Juve had been hard done by. They had been harshly punished for losing their concentration for a split-second but they didn't need to lose their heads too.

After all, Buffon had, for once, been equal to everything Ronaldo had fired at him all evening. Perhaps the penalty would have been no different. He should have remained calm. He should have remained on the pitch.  

The end may very well have been coming. But it didn't have to be like this...