Man U vs Real: Debate rages over referee's red card to Nani
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Cuneyt Cakir's decision to give a red card to Manchester United winger Nani is already being written into Champions League lore as the game-changer that led to United's exit and Real Madrid's advancement.
Despite the controversial call, the Turkish referee may just have passed a UEFA audition to be selected for the final in May.
With United leading 1-0 on Tuesday, Cakir red-carded Nani in the 56th minute after the United player stretched his leg to try to control the ball but caught Alvaro Arbeloa in the chest with the studs of his right boot.
Madrid then scored two quick goals and won 2-1, advancing to the quarterfinals 3-2 on aggregate.
Cakir was watched at Old Trafford by UEFA head of referees Pierluigi Collina, who has overseen the 36-year-old official's rapid rise, including nomination to FIFA's shortlist for the 2014 World Cup.
UEFA declined comment Wednesday, which is the European body's usual response to questions about their referees.
After promoting Cakir to its top-tier status in 2011, UEFA has consistently given him big assignments and proposed him for FIFA competitions. He has shown no fear of sending off players whose reputations did not shield them from the letter of football law.
Before Nani, Cakir showed red cards this season to England captain Steven Gerrard in a World Cup qualifier, Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets in a Champions League match and Chelsea defender Gary Cahill in the Club World Cup final.
When UEFA backed its referee's judgment by banning Busquets for two Champions League matches after his robust challenge on Benfica defender Maxi Pereira, the Catalan club's appeal was dismissed.
Cakir appears to have judged that Busquets, Cahill and now Nani used "excessive force,'' which the laws of football say must lead to a red card. The guidelines to "Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct'' defines excessive as when "the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent.''
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