Gian Piero Gasperini feels the referee ‘ruined the game’ with that early red card. ‘We might’ve lost to Real Madrid anyway, but at least we would’ve been allowed to play.’
Inevitably, the coach was furious with the German referee for punishing Remo Freuler with a straight red card just 17 minutes in, judging Ferland Mendy’s run to be a clear scoring opportunity when he had knocked it sideways and seemed to be going for the cross.
La Dea held out brilliantly for most of the match, capitulating only to a Mendy curler at the 86th minute.
“What remains is the bitterness that we couldn’t get to play the game we were waiting for,” the coach told Sky Sport Italia.
“Aside from the result, the satisfaction was getting to play against Real Madrid in the Champions League. I don’t know what the result would’ve been, but the game was completely ruined by an incident that was judged excessively.
“Qualification puts us in a way in the best possible position, as we only have to win and can’t think of anything else! We had hoped for a different result, and above all a different match.
“We were in the final minutes, we just had to bring the result home. Yet we conceded a goal with Mendy’s right foot, so that’s a bit weird, almost a fluke. It’s a pity.
“Considering how the game went, a 1-0 result isn’t even that bad, but we feel regret that we weren’t given the opportunity to play.”
Josip Ilicic was introduced as a substitute, then hauled off again half-an-hour later.
“There were only four minutes left, my intention was to shore up the defence, but unfortunately we conceded a goal moments after the substitution.”
To make matters worse, Duvan Zapata also limped off with a thigh problem after just 30 minutes.
“I spoke to him, it doesn’t seem to be a strain, it’s more of a twinge around the quadricep. He was afraid of doing more damage. It’s unfortunate, as we had moved into a good position to deal with the situation.
“It would’ve been a very different game with 11 against 11. People talk about absentees, fine, but they still have immense quality in the squad,” continued Gasperini.
“I wanted a more open game, we had started well with some good moves. It was meant to be a totally different spirit in the match.
“We defended well and almost brought home the 0-0, but it would’ve certainly been more entertaining with 11 against 11.
“The game was ruined. Last season, after absolute chaos, the handball rule was sorted out. Now we have the temptation to remove any form of contact in football and that is suicide for the sport.
“I just got banned for saying something in Serie A, if I say something now then UEFA will ban me for a month. But this is football suicide. We cannot have referees who never played the game and don’t know the difference between a challenge and a foul.
“If they can’t tell the difference, then they ought to go and get a different job, frankly. They should get people who played football to referee instead.
“Referees also have video replays now, they have everything needed to judge, and yet even with replays they get it wrong.
“You wait so long for this event and then it gets ruined. We might’ve lost anyway, I am not complaining about the result, but we at least could’ve played our game.
“We’re satisfied, though, and we are going to Madrid to play our game.”