By Joe Harker
Who'd be a football referee? It seems to be a thankless task, particularly for one Michael Oliver, who was assigned to officiate the Champions League quarter final second leg between Real Madrid and Juventus.
The Italian side fought back to level the score after conceding three in the first leg until the dying moments of the game saw a penalty awarded to the hosts. Juventus surrounded the referee to protest the decision and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was sent off for his reaction. In what might be his final Champions League game he was forced to walk off the pitch and watch his side be knocked out.
After the match, Buffon was furious with Oliver, saying the referee had "a bag of rubbish for a heart". Although normally acknowledged as one of the gentlemen of the game, Buffon has been relentless in his criticism of Oliver. The keeper insisted the referee should not have given the penalty. He said: "The team gave its all, but a human being cannot destroy dreams like that at the end of an extraordinary comeback on a dubious situation.
"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."
It's a sad ending for one of the greatest players in the history of football. Buffon has never won the Champions League, though he has been in the finals three times in his career. This season was seen by many as his last chance to win it and after a stunning comeback from Juventus that chance looked a little more likely. But it was not to be and Buffon's hope of winning the Champions League ended in perhaps the cruelest way possible.
One man who might sympathise is Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, who was sent off for a headbutt in the final of the 2006 World Cup. Buffon was on the winning side that day and saw a legend of the game depart in ignominious circumstances. Zidane insisted the keeper didn't deserve to be red carded but acknowledge there was little anyone could do to change the situation.
Some have supported Buffon's harsh criticism of Michael Oliver, with former teammate Andrea Pirlo saying he thought it might have been a penalty but understood why the keeper reacted with such anger, as he would have done the same. He said: "I think he exaggerated the part about a crime against the humanity of sports being committed, but it should be understood that it was his last game in the Champions League and he expected to win it."
Others have been less supportive, with Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero believing Buffon will think differently of Oliver in a few days time. Perhaps when the keeper has calmed down he will look back on what he has said and think he went too far. Del Piero said: "When he talked about the referee, it was difficult for me to understand him honestly.
"I think that in a few days, Buffon will have different words to say to the referee."