Former referee Graham Poll insisted Michael Oliver was correct in his decisions to award Real Madrid a last-gasp penalty and send off Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon in a dramatic Champions League clash.
Two-time reigning champions Madrid advanced to the semi-finals 4-3 on aggregate, despite a controversial 3-1 defeat to Juventus in the Spanish capital on Wednesday.
With extra time looming following Juve’s stunning comeback, English referee Oliver awarded Madrid a stoppage-time penalty – which Cristiano Ronaldo converted – after Medhi Benatia’s foul on substitute Lucas Vazquez.
Enraged by the decision, Buffon was then red carded for the first time in the Champions League after furiously confronting Oliver, who was surrounded by Juve players at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Oliver was heavily criticised by Buffon and others post-match but Poll hailed his countryman’s performance in Madrid.
“Michael Oliver, only promoted to the elite group of officials in January, justified the decision with some very strong but correct refereeing in the Bernabeu,” Poll wrote for the Daily Mail.
“With scores level in a gripping quarter-final heading for extra time, Oliver was courageous enough to award a penalty which, once converted, took Real Madrid through to the semi-final.
“He didn’t stop there. Surrounded and disgracefully harassed by half a dozen or so menacing Juventus players, led by their talismanic captain, Oliver – 33 – stayed calm and correctly dismissed Gianluigi Buffon for his aggressive protests.
“Arsene Wenger once told me I was talking rubbish when I said a referee needed courage to give big decisions. I imagine after watching this he will understand.
“What a pity the FA didn’t promote Oliver sooner so he could have been eligible for the World Cup.”
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