The UEFA Champions League Final is the number one game across the European footballing stage, but things don’t always go as every team intended. There will, of course, be a winner and a loser, as is the case in every final, but receiving a red card in a match of this magnitude, especially considering the rarity of Champions League red cards, is almost unheard of.
The facts back this up as you’d naturally expect there would have been a fair few red’s in this type of contest given what is at the stage. Some of the best players in the game have not been able to hold aloft this famous trophy, so it could be that certain types won’t commit a heavy challenge at risk of reaching their marching orders.
After reading the title of this article, naturally, you’ll have had a little think as to how many Champions League final red cards have indeed been issued in this showpiece event. Well, the answer to that is only three. Is that a surprise? Some would say so. It could also be that referees don’t want to have too much of a say.
With the introduction of VAR, there is every chance this number will increase at a more rapid rate in the years to come. One thing is for certain, neither Manchester City or Inter Milan will want to be the fourth side to receive a red in this game when they meet on Saturday, June 10th.
Let us take a look at the three historic occasions when a red card was issued in a UEFA Champions League Final.
2005/06 UEFA Champions League Final – Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal
Red card: Jens Lehmann (Arsenal) – 18th minute – Professional Foul
It may not surprise many to know that our first Champions League final red card was the hot-headed Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. He was the first player to be sent off in this prestigious fixture. However, there is an argument to be had that the referee did not have to come to this decision.
Ronaldinho supplied a characteristically accurate through ball for Samuel Eto’o to get in behind the Arsenal defence, leaving the Cameroonian through on goal. He beat the onrushing Lehmann to the ball and the German international hacked down his opposing striker.
However, if referee Terje Hauge had played an advantage, if would have led to a Barcelona goal as Ludovic Giuly ran onto the touch from Eto’o and scored into the empty net. Arsenal would actually have preferred to concede in this situation, instead of playing the remaining 72 minutes with a man less.
Although Arsenal did then go to take the lead with ten men, the extra man told in the end when Barcelona scored twice in the last 15 minutes to claim the crown.
2007/08 UEFA Champions League Final – Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea (Man Utd win on pens)
Red card: Didier Drogba (Chelsea) – 116th minute – Violent Conduct
This game was hotly contested and it is perhaps no surprise a red card was issued. These were the top two teams in English football taking on one another in the biggest match in European football. There was no love lost between these outfits and there were many battles across the pitch.
Five yellow cards have been handed out prior to something of a melee in the 116th minute involving several players. In the end, Didier Drogba received his Champions League red card for slapping Nemanja Vidić in the face, whilst yellows were awarded to Carlos Tevez and also Michael Ballack.
The dismissal of Drogba would prove costly in the end as he would have been an intended penalty taker. The match of course did go the distance and Man Utd edged their rivals 6-5, with John Terry and Nicolas Anelka both missing from the 12-yard mark.
Drogba ended his time at Chelsea with a total of five red cards, but he would still go down as a legend of the club when scoring the winning penalty in their 2011/12 UEFA Champions League triumph over Bayern Munich a few years later.
2016/17 UEFA Champions League Final – Juventus 1-4 Real Madrid
Red card: Juan Cuadrado (Juventus) – 84th minute – Two Yellow Cards
The third, and so far final, red to be dished out in a UEFA Champions League Final came at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff when Real Madrid comfortably defeating Juventus 4-1. It could be argued this dismissal had the least amount of impact compared to Lehmann and Drogba.
The score already had Real Madrid leading 3-1 with just over five minutes of the game remaining. Nevertheless, it was still quite a controversial decision at the time from referee Felix Brych to give the Colombian a second yellow.
It would be fair to say that Sergio Ramos made the absolute most of the rather laborious push from Cuadrado. The reaction of Ramos and his Real Madrid teammates no doubt played a big part in the official reaching the decision he did.
Still, the red did not necessarily affect the result in a big way. Real looked to be cruising to victory when leading 3-1 at the time, and Marco Asensio added a late fourth to put a gloss on the victory. After winning this UEFA Champions League title, Real Madrid then went on to win the title in three of the next four seasons.