Jose Mourinho says the yellow cards picked up by Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos late in Real Madrid's 3-0 Champions League first leg win over Galatasaray were not pre-planned to allow both players to go into the semis with a clean slate if Madrid progress.
With their side three goals up with just five minutes remaining in Wednesday night's game at the Bernabeu, and most viewers thinking the tie was already settled, Alonso went into referee Svein Oddvar Moen's book for dissent. Ramos soon followed for kicking the ball high into the stand in apparent anger at a decision. Neither player appeared overly concerned at their punishments.
UEFA regulations state that any player who deliberately looks to get booked can face a two-game suspension. Earlier this season Levante defender Sergio Ballesteros was judged to have done just that in a Europa League game against Hannover, and was banned for two subsequent matches.
Both Alonso and Ramos picked up similarly convenient late bookings during a 2010 group game at Ajax, and they - and Mourinho - were banned for Madrid's final group game against Auxerre.
Asked about this post-game Alonso dodged the issue, while it did not come up during Ramos' interview with Spanish TV. However, the latter did comment on Thursday, denying he had intentionally caused himself to be booked.
"The referee gave a free kick on the edge of the box, but it wasn't a foul," he told Real Madrid's official website. "It was a situation that angers you, because you don't want to concede any goals, and it was a dangerous situation on the edge of the box that could have complicated matters."
Mourinho told reporters at the post-game press conference that he had hoped both players would feature in the second leg and they, as well as Galatasaray's Burak Yilmaz and Dany Nounkeu, would be important losses for their teams.
"Both teams will be missing important players for the next game," the Portuguese coach said. "It allows me to play Alonso and Ramos on Saturday [in La Liga against Levante at the Bernabeu], which they were not going to do. But it complicates my plans a little, because when I saw Xabi's yellow I started thinking about the match in Istanbul and when Ramos was booked my plans fell through again. I will have more to think more about tonight."
UEFA's current regulations on the issue were introduced in June 2011, after the last similar incident involving Madrid. Late in that November 2010 game at the Amsterdam ArenA, a message was apparently passed to the players from the bench via sub keeper Jerzy Dudek and Iker Casillas. Wednesday's nights incidents were less clear-cut, with Alonso's booking not even picked up by TV cameras, according to Mundo Deportivo.
In 2011, UEFA initially banned Alonso and Ramos for one match and Mourinho for two [one suspended] and fined the three men, as well as Dudek, Casillas and their club. The coach's ban was subsequently reduced to just one game on appeal.