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The Toe Poke

Cristiano Ronaldo facing 3-game ban

Cristiano Ronaldo could be banned for three La Liga games after being sent off during Sunday night's tough 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao at the new San Mames.

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Ronaldo raised his hands while involved in a confrontation with Athletic's Carlos Gurpegi and Ander Iturraspe late in the second half, as players from both sides bundled in when Madrid's Karim Benzema had a penalty claim turned down.

The Madrid talisman was perhaps unfortunate to be shown a straight red by referee Miguel Angel Ayza Gamez for pushing Gurpegi in the face, but of more concern could be the gesture made to an assistant referee as the Portugal captain was jeered from the field by a jubilant home crowd.

A typical one-game ban for would see Ronaldo miss Villarreal at home next Saturday, while a three-match punishment would add the upcoming games at Getafe and at home to Elche. As bans picked up in La Liga action are typically served in that competition, Ronaldo should be free to play in Wednesday's Copa del Rey semifinal first leg against Atletico Madrid at the Bernabeu, and barring a very unlikely four-match punishment he will be back for the Liga derbi at Atletico in first weekend of March.

Madrid will be concerned, however, that the referee's official report did include a gesture from Ronaldo which could be interpreted as suggesting the officials had deliberately singled him out.

"In the 75th minute the player [seven] Dos Santos Aveiro, Cristiano Ronaldo, was sent off for the following reason: hitting an opponent in the face with his hand, while play was stopped," the report said.

"After having been sent off the No. 7 of Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro, while he was leaving the pitch, struck himself various times with the palm of his hand in the face, directing this to the fourth official."

AS immediately found two precedents for the authorities adding an extra two games for such a gesture, with Valencia's Sofiane Feghouli and David Albelda having had bans changed from one game to three in recent seasons.

Xabi Alonso -- who was quite fortunate to stay on himself after just seeing one yellow despite a number of crunching fouls on Athletic's Ander Herrera and Markel Susaeta -- told AS that the noisy new San Mames crowd had influenced Ayza Gomez thinking during the game.

"Of course there was no aggression [from Ronaldo]," Alonso said. "The red card was exaggerated, Gurpegui helped a lot. The ref was also influenced by the reaction of the fans during the whole game. We were harmed by that. The fans always have an influence, that is nothing new."

Marcelo told Canal Plus directly after the game that the sending off had been unjust, although the Madrid left-back did not explain why.

"It is difficult when you lose a player in an unjust way," Marcelo said. "It is clear that the decision was unfair. It is very difficult when it is like that, but we always try and win games."

The sending off was the eighth of Ronaldo's club career -- the Portugal captain has now been sent off in Spain against Almeria, Malaga, Athletic and Atletico Madrid in last season's Copa del Rey final defeat at the Bernabeu.

Madrid may decide to appeal the latest red card -- with director Miguel Pardeza telling Canal Plus they would consider their options as their man was the wronged party in what happened.

"It seemed simply unfair to me, if anyone deserved a red card it was the who started it off," Pardeza said. "Cristiano should have stayed on the pitch. It seems to me that Gurpegi is the first to put his hands on Cristiano's chest, and then tries to trick the referee as he exaggerates. We must have another look at the incident, calmly, and our legal department will decide whether to appeal or not."


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