Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic was one of many who defended team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo after the Old Lady's 2-0 win over Valencia in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, describing the official's decision to hand the Portugal international a red card as "absurd."
Ronaldo was sent off for seemingly patting defender Jeison Murillo on the head, and Pjanic could not understand the decision, per the club's official website (via Goal's Dejan Kalinic):
"Football is a strange game. We could have been 4-0 up after the opening period, then came that absurd sending off.
"It was like the Lyon game [in 2016]. We dug deep and found the spirit we needed to take us all the way to the final.
"That's what we need to do again."
The 33-year-old received a wave of support after the contest. Per Jake Polden of the Daily Mirror, Ronaldo's sister Katia Aveiro took to social media to brand the red card "shameful" and called for "justice."
When speaking to Sky Sport Italia, manager Massimiliano Allegri called for the Champions League to adopt the video assistant replay system that's used in Italy (h/t Football Italia): "I can only say that VAR would've helped the referee in this decision. Going down to 10 men in the Champions League for an incident like that is disappointing. We risked losing tonight with this, and we'll miss him for the next games too."
Team-mate Leonardo Bonucci also took a shot at the referee, telling Sky Sport Italia he "saw what he saw―not very well―and we overcame the obstacles" (h/t Football Italia).
At the time of the sending off, the score was 0-0, and Juventus had survived a tricky opening period to take control of the contest. Valencia received a boost from the dismissal but could not find the breakthrough, and two penalties from Pjanic gave the Italian champions the winning margin.
Los Che got a penalty of their own in added time, but Daniel Parejo couldn't beat goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
There is some confusion about whether the Bianconeri can appeal the red card. Football writer Pilib De Brun believes so and assumed it would be rescinded:
BBC Sport's Simon Stone disagreed and pointed out Ronaldo's ban could be for more than one match, though that seems unlikely:
Simon Stone @sistoney67
Re @Cristiano. Can't appeal against red card, so automatic 1 game ban. Disciplinary panel will sit to decide if there should be additional punishment. Ronaldo/Juventus can appeal against additional punishment. Both disciplinary panel + appeal to be dealt with before Matchday 3.
Losing the former Real Madrid man for any length of time would be a blow for the Italians, but they showed at the Mestalla that they can cope with his absence. Juventus have ample depth and would likely move Mario Mandzukic into a central role while bringing Douglas Costa or Paulo Dybala into the starting XI.
Juventus' next outing in Europe is at home against Young Boys. That match will be followed by a double-header against Manchester United, which could decide the winner of Group H. The Red Devils beat Young Boys 3-0 on Wednesday.