Nani, Motta, Pepe: The most debatable red cards

A red card in a big game usually spoils the occasion.

Whether it's fair or not, neutrals, and to a certain extent even fans, hate seeing a match where one team is playing a man down.

A Real Madrid fan would have chosen to win the match without the controversial red card shown to Nani. One, it takes the sheen off their win and two, a match which was supposed to be remembered for someone's heroics will now be looked back upon as the match when a player was controversially sent off.

We take a look at some of the more hotly debated red card decisions in recent Champions League history.

Nani, Manchester United vs Real Madrid, Last 16, 2013

Opposition managers aren't usually this graceful in accepting a bad decision. Some players, like Roy Keane, have even gone on record saying that the referee made the right decision. But when Mourinho walked over to Ferguson and whispered something in his ear after the sending off, it was an easy guess as to what he thought.

Getty Images

Nani sees red for a high boot on Arbeloa. Getty Images

Nani and Alvaro Arbeloa went together for an aerial ball, and Nani raised his boot to bring the ball down, catching Arbeloa in the process. Replays showed there was no intent and none of the Real Madrid players were even asking for a booking — let alone a red card.

Madrid came from 0-1 behind to win 2-1 and go through 3-2 on aggregate.

Thiago Motta, Barcelona vs Inter Milan, semifinals, 2010

We won't mince words while describing what Sergio Busquets did to get Motta sent off in the 2010 Champions League semifinals. The Barcelona midfielder did take a hit to his face from Motta's flailing arm, but went down as if he'd been hit by a bullet. What made it worse was this — while rolling on the pitch clutching at his face, he took a sneak-peak from between his hands. Only he knows what he was up to, but Motta saw red and missed the eventual final which Inter Milan won.

Even after the decision, when Motta grabbed Busquets from behind, he saw it best to go down in embarrassing fashion.

Inter Milan went through, 3-2 on aggregate.

Pepe, Real Madrid vs Barcelona, semifinals, 2011

There was a controversial decision every five minutes in this Champions League semifinal in 2011 — eventually capped by Pepe's sending off for a high tackle on Dani Alves. Pepe went in hard and studs up on Alves in a reckless challenge. But despite there being no contact, Alves made the most of it by somersaulting a dozen times on the pitch.

He went off on a stretcher and came back to play in a few moments, to which Rio Ferdinand wrote on Twitter: "If you ever see me go off on a stretcher then run back on to play, I give everyone here the green light to hit me with a two-footed tackle." 

The match also had Sergio Busquets clutching his face when Marcelo's challenge clearly took him in the ribs. Absurd.

Barcelona won the match 2-0. Real Madrid posted a video of all the bad decisions on their website.

Robin van Persie, Barcelona vs Arsenal, Last 16, 2011

Harsh — that's what we'll call this red card. Van Persie had already been given a yellow card as Arsenal travelled to the Nou Camp for a Last 16 tie in 2011. But it was going to get worse for the Dutchman.

Amid 90,000 screaming fans, he took a shot on goal a second after the whistle went off for offside and it was enough for the referee to show a second yellow card and send off Arsenal's best player.

Arsenal were leading 3-2 on aggregate, but the decision made it easy for Barcelona to turn the match around and go through (4-3 on aggregate).

Didier Drogba , Barcelona vs Chelsea, Last 16, 2005

It's the 2005 Last 16 tie and Chelsea are awash with the millions of Roman Abramovich. Chelsea were leading 1-0 via an own goal from Juliano Belletti but their striker Drogba was already on a yellow card when he went for a loose ball against goalkeeper Victor Valdes. Yes, his studs were showing up in a dangerous way, but replays also suggested he had the right to go for the ball.

However, referee Anders Frisk showed him a second yellow card and Barcelona went on to win the tie 2-1.

Such were the threats to Frisk after the match that he quit refereeing.

Are there any other such decisions that you would like to tell us about?  Let us know in the comments section.

Updated Date: Mar 07, 2013 13:18 PM

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