Champions League

Raging Buffon's crazy Champions League farewell

2018-04-12 21:54
Gianluigi Buffon (AP)

Turin - Gianluigi Buffon's Champions League career came to a bitter end on a crazy night with the Juventus legend sent off in Madrid and then accusing the referee of having "a rubbish bin instead of a heart".

The veteran goalkeeper's frustration spilled over at the Santiago Bernabeu after Juventus beat Real Madrid 3-1 on the night, but were eliminated 4-3 on aggregate in the quarter-final after English referee Michael Oliver awarded the Spaniards a contested 97th-minute penalty.

"In place of a heart he has a rubbish bin," raged 40-year-old Buffon after Oliver pointed to the spot for Mehdi Benatia's challenge on Lucas Vazquez in the dying minutes.

Buffon was given his first ever red card in 117 Champions League games and after Wojciech Szczesny had taken his place in the Juventus goal, Cristiano Ronaldo coolly slotted home the spot kick to put defending champions Real Madrid through to the semi-finals.

"You have to be a murderer to make the last two decisions the referee made," Buffon, the Juve captain, said later.

"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," he continued.

"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."

It was another blow for the charismatic 2006 World Cup winner who was reduced to tears after Italy dramatically failed to qualify for the global showpiece in November's playoffs.

Juventus have finished runners-up twice in the Champions League in the past three years and Wednesday's defeat was probably Buffon's last chance to continue his bid for the only major title missing from his collection.

"I'm not here to judge what the referee saw, because it was a borderline incident," he said, continuing his diatribe.

"All I'll say is that you can't be that cynical in the 93rd minute, to shatter the dreams of a team that had given everything it had to give.

"I've always found it an honour to go up against this team and this club in front of this crowd, but tonight we deserved extra time at the very least."

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli said he could understand Buffon's fury and called for the introduction of the use of VAR in the Champions League - it is already used in the Serie A in Italy.

"The referee did not understand anything, and tonight the least happy person of all should be him," said Agnelli.

Benatia, whose challenge led to the penalty, said: "It's unbelievable that our captain isn't allowed to speak to the referee - the red card was very harsh."

Buffon's dismissal generated a storm back home with Turin daily La Stampa lamenting "the beauty of football, and its cruelty".

"(The penalty) ruined everything, including Buffon's farewell to the Champions League. The dream was stolen, the achievement cannot be reached. It hurts to go out like this."

"It hurts badly, very badly," agreed Italian daily Corriere della Sera. "Juventus deserved more, much more, at least extra-time."

"The rage and the pride," headlined Gazzetta dello Sport of "a night of regrets".

"Every referee knows that there are times when whistling has a different weight, and therefore only the most obvious fouls are punished," wrote Gazzetta dello Sport, claiming that Oliver "was not up to the challenge".

Tuttosport, a paper based in Juventus' home city of Turin, said it was "an undeserved ending - just as Buffon doesn't deserve to end his career in Europe with a red card."

After the frustration, Buffon - who had said this season would be his final one - must turn his attention to winning a seventh straight Serie A title with Juventus, and completing the double with the Italian Cup.

Next up is a Serie A game against Sampdoria on Sunday with a potential title decider against Napoli on April 22, and the Italian Cup final against AC Milan on May 9.

And there remains another record which could prove a lure for Buffon to continue his club career - Paolo Maldini's record for Serie A appearances.

Buffon has played 635 times in Italy's top flight, but with seven games remaining this season he would fall short of former AC Milan defender Maldini's record of 647.

 

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Fixtures
Tuesday, 01 October 2019
Atalanta v Shakhtar Donetsk, San Siro 18:55
Real Madrid v Club Brugge, Santiago Bernabeu 18:55
Juventus v Bayer Leverkusen, Allianz Stadium 21:00
Manchester City v Dinamo Zagreb, Etihad Stadium 21:00
Lokomotiv Moscow v Atletico Madrid, Lokomotiv Stadium 21:00
Red Star Belgrade v Olympiacos, Stadion Rajko Mitic 21:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Bayern Munchen, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 21:00
Galatasaray v Paris SG, Turk Telekom Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 02 October 2019
Slavia Prague v Borussia Dortmund, Eden Arena 18:55
Genk v Napoli, Luminus Arena 18:55
Liverpool v Red Bull Salzburg, Anfield 21:00
Barcelona v Inter Milan, Camp Nou 21:00
Valencia v Ajax, Mestalla 21:00
RB Leipzig v Lyon, Red Bull Arena 21:00
Zenit St. Petersburg v Benfica, Saint Petersburg Stadium 21:00
Lille v Chelsea, Stade Pierre-Mauroy 21:00
Tuesday, 22 October 2019
Shakhtar Donetsk v Dinamo Zagreb, Metalist Stadium 18:55
Atletico Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen, Wanda Metropolitano 18:55
Juventus v Lokomotiv Moscow, Allianz Stadium 21:00
Manchester City v Atalanta, Etihad Stadium 21:00
Club Brugge v Paris SG, Jan Breydel Stadion 21:00
Olympiacos v Bayern Munchen, Karaiskakis Stadium 21:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Red Star Belgrade, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 21:00
Galatasaray v Real Madrid, Turk Telekom Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 23 October 2019
Ajax v Chelsea, Amsterdam ArenA 18:55
RB Leipzig v Zenit St. Petersburg, Red Bull Arena 18:55
Benfica v Lyon, da Luz 21:00
Slavia Prague v Barcelona, Eden Arena 21:00
Genk v Liverpool, Luminus Arena 21:00
Red Bull Salzburg v Napoli, Red Bull Arena 21:00
Inter Milan v Borussia Dortmund, San Siro 21:00
Lille v Valencia, Stade Pierre-Mauroy 21:00
Tuesday, 05 November 2019
Barcelona v Slavia Prague, Camp Nou 19:55
Zenit St. Petersburg v RB Leipzig, Saint Petersburg Stadium 19:55
Liverpool v Genk, Anfield 22:00
Lyon v Benfica, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Valencia v Lille, Mestalla 22:00
Napoli v Red Bull Salzburg, San Paolo 22:00
Borussia Dortmund v Inter Milan, Signal Iduna Park 22:00
Chelsea v Ajax, Stamford Bridge 22:00
Wednesday, 06 November 2019
Bayern Munchen v Olympiacos, Allianz Arena 19:55
Lokomotiv Moscow v Juventus, Lokomotiv Stadium 19:55
Atalanta v Manchester City, Atleti Azzurri d'Italia 22:00
Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid, BayArena 22:00
Dinamo Zagreb v Shakhtar Donetsk, Maksimir Stadium 22:00
Paris SG v Club Brugge, Parc des Princes 22:00
Real Madrid v Galatasaray, Santiago Bernabeu 22:00
Red Star Belgrade v Tottenham Hotspur, Stadion Rajko Mitic 22:00
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