I’ve long been a huge admirer of the capabilities of Michael Oliver to be one of the world’s best referees and last night he got two huge game changing decisions correct.
At that stage of the game, it takes great bravery and courage to make that call with a semi final place at stake and for me Michael deserves credit.
On the penalty incident, for me, it’s clear that Mehdi Benatia pushed Lucas Vasquez. From his position, there is now way that Benatia can win the ball. He’s got his arms on him, his legs round him, as well as pushing him, so Michael made the correct decision to award the penalty.
Now understandably Juventus are going to react the way they did, it’s a huge moment for them, they’re on the brink of a famous comeback and within moments it looks as though it could get taken away from them. But that does not mean that you can accept the reaction of some of their players.
Gianluigi Buffon lost his head, his discipline and for me he had to be sent off. The way he runs at Oliver, I think he grabs hold of him as well, he leaves the referee no choice. What’s so impressive is the way Michael stays composed and calm throughout the whole melee, I would imagine Pierluigi Collina will be mightily impressed with him.
Looking back on his overall performance Michael will know there were a few incidents and cautions he could have managed better but that will improve once he gets more games. Players in Europe will get to know him better, and once they understand him and respect they’ll trust his decision making.
It’s fantastic that Michael was given the opportunity to referee this high profile game. We have to remember he was only promoted to the UEFA Elite panel in January and he’s never been given a game of this magnitude in Europe before, so it shows great progress.
People might say he was too inexperienced but where do you start, he’s refereed the biggest games in the biggest league in the world so naturally his next step is big games in Europe. So he’s got to be thrown in and tested to see if he sinks or swims. We need a referee at the Euros in two years time and then in Qatar in four years, Michael could well be that man.