Jose Mourinho refused to be drawn on the red cards that seemed to be intentionally picked up by Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos in Real Madrid's Champions League win over Ajax, while Ramos denied they tried to get sent off.
Alonso and Ramos both picked up second yellows for time-wasting late in Madrid's impressive 4-0 away triumph, meaning they will be suspended for what is now a meaningless game against Auxerre and start the knock-out phase with a clean slate on the bookings front.
The farcical nature of the second bookings, where each player repeatedly stuttered when taking set pieces until referee Craig Thompson had no choice but to act, clearly indicated a ploy by the Spanish World Cup winners to make early exits once the result - and Madrid's top spot in Group G - was certain.
But Mourinho was not letting on as to whether the instruction had come from the bench, instead deciding to criticise Thompson for handing out soft yellow cards earlier in the match.
When he was asked about the red cards, Mourinho said: "I spoke with many players throughout the game, not only with Ramos and Alonso. Stories sell, but the important thing is the 4-0 win and the fantastic game we had. Let's talk about that and not other things.''
When quizzed on the subject again, Mourinho said: "The sendings-off came after an easy game where the referee has shown some strange yellows. They are cards that I don't like. It was an easy game to control. Ajax made a lot of fouls and in the first from Ramos he was shown a yellow card.
"The red cards we picked up don't matter hugely as we have already qualified ahead of the next game against Auxerre. If Ramos and Alonso can't play against Auxerre then there will be others, but we are not going to gift the game to the French. We want to win them all.''
Ramos insisted Madrid did not deliberately seek the cautions to get suspensions out of the way before the knock-out stages.
Ramos said in AS: "We haven't gone looking for the cards. Seeing what the scoreline was, the referee could have spared them. But he sent me off and that's it.''
Mourinho, still unbeaten in his new job, was delighted with the performances of his side's fringe players as Karim Benzema and Alvaro Arbeloa put Madrid 2-0 up at half-time before Cristiano Ronaldo netted a second-half double to complete the scoring.
Mourinho, who was without several first-team regulars for the match, said of the victory: "I'm very happy, because we're first in our group, which is good bearing in mind practically all the best teams will finish first and we can gain a small advantage in the draw for the last 16.
"I'm very happy with players such as Arbeloa, Benzema, (Raul) Albiol and Lass (Diarra), who don't normally play and have responded magnificently. For me all the players are fundamental. Everyone is going to have their opportunity. The responses that they have given today have been very good. The players are ready for everything, and that makes me happy.''