If Bayern Munich wanted to keep their perfect Champions League streak going, they’d have to run through Inter Milan first. And by first indications, I Nerazzurri weren’t going to make it easy on them. The Italians started the game on fire, and a rocking shot from Nicolò Barella inside of ten minutes nearly earned them a penalty after striking the arms of Sadio Mané — and surely in the eyes of some, should have.
But after review, the referee Ivan Kruzliak declined to award a spot kick. Barella’s shot from mere meters in front of Mané was on a crash course towards his head, and the Bayern winger reacted instinctively to defend himself — starting to duck and raising his hands in protection, but having very little time to do either.
In the end, if Mané hadn’t done as he did, Barella’s powerful close-range shot would have blasted him full in the face.
“If I didn’t put my hands up, I would have gone to the hospital,” Mané said after the game to Bild reporter Heiko Niedderer. “That’s not a penalty!”
Julian Nagelsmann had a slightly more neutral stance.
“I think you can give that as a penalty,” the Bayern manager said in his post-game (via @iMiaSanMia). “But the referee, who has knowledge of the rules, viewed the scene for two-and-a-half minutes and made his decision, then that’s it.”
Inter players on the field protested to the referee briefly afterwards, and Kruzliak responded by emulating Mané’s defensive gesture to explain his decision. Here’s the replay, starting at the 1:40 mark:
BFW Takeaway: Whatever the rules say, I’m pleased with the call, and not for competitive reasons (the outcome of this game didn’t matter, anyway). In this situation a player should not be confronted with a choice like that, and therefore not punished for an instinctive response.
It’s one thing if his arm flails outside his body and accidentally deflects the path of the ball — but for my taste, it’s absolutely not OK to send a message that says, “keep your arms down, either try to duck or take the head impact if you fail to do that in time.” And it’s little different than if his arms had been tucked in front of his body and the ball struck, say...lower.
But what did you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Interested in more analysis of the game? Why not check out our postgame podcast? We discuss how Inter stacks up against the big boys of the Champions League and how Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern has shown some swagger recently. Listen to it below or at on Spotify.
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