English referee Michael Oliver dominated headlines on Thursday morning following two bold decisions in the closing moments of the Champions League quarter-final between Real Madrid and Juventus.
Here’s everything you need to know about the official who found himself at the centre of a controversial finale to a classic European tie.
English official Michael Oliver was at the centre of a controversial finale to the Champions League quarter-final between Real Madrid and Juventus on Wednesday night
Just remind me what happened on Wednesday night
Juventus, who trailed 3-0 following last week’s first leg, were leading 3-0 in the Santiago Bernabeu and an engrossing tie was heading for extra time with the aggregate scores level.
In the third minute of stoppage time, the Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia placed his hand on the back of Real Madrid’s Lucas Vazquez, who fell to the ground inside the penalty area.
Oliver pointed to the penalty spot, only to be confronted and jostled by fuming Juventus players. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, in the final season of his career, over-stepped the mark and was shown a red card.
Some five minutes later, once the protests had subsided, Cristiano Ronaldo held his nerve to put the penalty past replacement keeper Wojciech Szczesny and book Real’s place in the semi-finals, 4-3 on aggregate.
Real Madrid were awarded a stoppage time penalty when Mehdi Benatia fouled Lucas Vazquez
Needing a goal to progress to the semi-finals, Real were awarded a 93rd-minute penalty
Gianluigi Buffon led furious Juventus protests in the direction of referee Oliver
The veteran Italian goalkeeper got right in the face of Oliver, leading to his sending off
What was the reaction like?
Juventus were understandably furious, believing the penalty should never have been given because Vazquez required no encouragement to go down.
Buffon, who at 40 and on the verge of retirement will now never win the Champions League, led a very personal attack on Oliver in comments after the final whistle.
He told Italian television: ‘It was a tenth of a penalty. I know the referee saw it, it was a dubious incident.
‘A human being cannot destory dreams like that at the end of an extraordinary comeback. You cannot ruin the dreams of a team.
‘Instead of a heart he probably has a trash can. If you don’t have the personality you should be in the stands with your wife, your kids, drinking your Sprite and eating crisps.
Buffon and his defensive colleagues surrounded Oliver after he pointed for a penalty kick
Buffon was sent off for his vociferous, wild-eyed protests on his final Champions League game
Buffon reacts after Oliver makes another bold call to brandish a red card to the goalkeeper
‘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.’
He later told Spanish radio: ‘You have to be a murderer to make the last two decisions the referee made.’
Both the Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri and chairman Andrea Agnelli called for the introduction of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) in the Champions League.
The view from Real Madrid was understandably very different. ‘I don’t understand why they are protesting. Lucas was tackled from behind and if they don’t give him the penalty, it’s a goal,’ said Ronaldo.
Cristiano Ronaldo kept his nerve despite a lengthy delay to convert the decisive penalty
The Portuguese star celebrated in shirtless, muscle-flexing fashion at the Bernabeu
So was Oliver correct in his decision?
Yes. There was contact between Benatia and Vazquez, with the Real player denied a clear goalscoring opportunity as a result.
Sportsmail’s Graham Poll said Oliver showed ‘some very strong but correct refereeing’.
‘Oliver rightly and courageously awarded a penalty,’ Poll added. ‘Surrounded and disgracefully harassed by half a dozen or so menacing Juventus players, led by their talismanic captain Buffon, Oliver stayed calm and correctly dismissed the goalkeeper for his aggressive protests.’
This was presumably the most high-profile incident of Oliver’s career?
It was. Oliver is 33 years of age, making him the second youngest on the present list of Select Group Referees in the Premier League. Only 32-year-old Bobby Madley is younger.
Oliver was only promoted onto UEFA’s elite group of officials in January this year, so his experience of Champions League matches is limited.
Giorgio Chiellini takes exception to a decision made by Oliver during Wednesday night’s game
In fact, the only other knockout stage match he had taken charge of prior to Wednesday night was the second leg of the last-16 tie between Besiktas and Bayern Munich.
Overall, this was just the eighth Champions League match Oliver had taken charge of, all in the last couple of seasons.
In the Besiktas-Bayern game, the German side had a very comfortable 5-0 lead from the first leg, so any contentious decisions were unlikely to have an impact on their progress. In the end, they won 3-1 anyway.
With Real 3-0 from the first leg and odds-on favourites to advance to the semi-finals, there would have been similar thoughts about this games as well.
But when two goals from Mario Mandzukic and another from Blaise Matuidi dragged Juve back into contention, Oliver might have know he’d have a key decision to make and he would have been right.
Juve’s protest continued well after the final whistle and aren’t likely to subside anytime soon
What’s his background?
Oliver hails from Ashington in Northumberland and his father, Clive, was also a referee.
Introduced to the art of football officiating aged 14, Oliver quickly gained his qualifications and advanced through the ranks, reaching the National List of Referees in 2007.
That same year, he became the youngest referee to officiate at Wembley Stadium when he took charge of the Conference National Play-off final between Exeter City and Morecambe.
From there, Oliver because the Football League’s youngest assistant referee, the League’s youngest referee and the Premier League’s youngest fourth official.
Miralem Pjanic makes a point to Oliver during an engrossing quarter-final, second leg
He duly became the youngest referee to take charge of a top-flight match in August 2010 – Oliver was 25 years and 182 days when he officiating Birmingham City vs Blackburn Rovers.
Oliver became a FIFA-listed referee in 2012, meaning he could take charge of international games, and he was the man in the middle for the 2014 Community Shield between Arsenal and Manchester City, and the 2016 EFL Cup final between City and Liverpool.
Any controversial flashpoints?
Like all referees, there have been a few headline-grabbers.
He was allegedly called a ‘son of a b****’ by Manchester United’s Angel Di Maria after dismissing the Argentine during an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal in 2015.
Di Maria, earlier booked for diving at Old Trafford, was shown a second yellow card for appearing to pull on Oliver’s shirt while protesting a decision.
Man United’s Angel Di Maria allegedly called Oliver a ‘son of a b****’ after a red card
A year earlier, Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart squared up head-to-head with Oliver during a Manchester derby win over United.
Oliver, who sent off Chris Smalling in the same game, was criticised by some for not sending Hart off.
Manchester City keeper Joe Hart goes head-to-head with Oliver in the 2014 derby with United
Last season, Oliver was criticised by United manager Jose Mourinho after booking Ander Herrera twice in quick succession during an FA Cup defeat at Chelsea.
Herrera received his first yellow for a 19th-minute foul on Eden Hazard and was then dismissed for another foul 15 minutes later.
Mourinho said in a sarcastic tone that Oliver is ‘a referee with fantastic potential.’
Ander Herrera and his United team-mates react with incredulity after Oliver sends him off
Jose’s sarcasm aside, what does the future hold for Oliver?
Having made such rapid progress so far in his career, Oliver will now aim to be selected for a major tournament such as the World Cup or European Championship.
Because he only made UEFA’s elite list in January, it was too late to be eligible for this summer’s finals in Russia, where there won’t be a single English official.
However, his quick decision-making under intense pressure on Wednesday night will certainly have been noted by UEFA’s head of referees Pierluigi Collina.
There is every chance we will see Oliver at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar by which time, thankfully for him, Buffon will be safely retired.