Referee report: Kuipers sovereign, but certainly not flawless at Anfield

For the Dutch input on this Champions League-night we had to be at Anfield: captain Georginio Wijnaldum led Liverpool, referee Björn Kuipers led the match. VoetbalPrimeur explains the performance of the man from Oldenzaal: he was in control, although his evening did not go smoothly.

Liverpool and Real Madrid begin part two of their quarter-final diptych on Wednesday night, after The Royal won 3-1 at home. Kuipers is sent to Anfield – four days before the cup final between Ajax and Vitesse – to keep this squatter on the right track. Moreover, he can whistle in the spotlight for the European Championship: this month he will be told whether he can go to a final tournament for the fifth time. It must be his last trick on the international stage, because Kuipers will stop whistling at an international level after the European Championship.

The first half of Liverpool-Real Madrid is mainly dominated by a rain of opportunities for the home team and a single withdrawal from Real Madrid. However, Thibaut Courtois keeps his team going and Karim Benzema hits the post. Kuipers has little to do in terms of figures: he whistles ten times and hands out one yellow card to both teams. Still, he must be wary.

Most important moments in the first half
1: The tone is set directly by Milner, who strikes hard on Benzema’s ankle. Kuipers lets play continue and the astonished Frenchman stays behind on the grass.

8: Éder Militão takes to the air after a corner for Liverpool and takes a few opponents and fellow players with him. Kuipers, however, gives advantage to the defending party: Real Madrid. “I have it all in the eye”, the guide gestures with a smile.

22: Andy Robertson thinks he secretly smuggles a corner, but Kuipers ‘just’ gives a goal kick to Real Madrid. The Scottish left back is resigned to the failure of his plan and accepts the decision resignedly.

’23: Fabinho goes awkwardly, but above all hard on fellow countryman Casemiro: Kuipers first gives an advantage and then a free kick. Casemiro stands limping, but Fabinho gets off without a card.

’24: Casemiro decides to take revenge one minute later and saws Milner over in front of the dug-out. The flame immediately hits the pan: the Liverpool couch is furious and the furious Robertson is furious. Kuipers briefly contacts VAR Pol van Boekel and then deals his only cards of the first half: Casemiro escapes with yellow, Robertson also disappears in the book.

’31: Sadio Mané and Militão bump into each other during an air duel and Real Madrid get a free kick. The two bicker for a while, Kuipers makes it happen.

’35: That’s inconvenient: Kuipers gets in the way of a pass from Marco Asensio and has to interrupt a promising attack from Real Madrid. The arbitrator on duty smiles like a farmer with a toothache and apologizes. For the few who do not know the family history of Asensio: he can do that in Dutch …

’45: Mane falls right on the stroke of half time in the sixteen. There is a brief protest from Robertson and Milner, but that is quickly nipped in the bud: no penalty.

Conclusion at rest
Kuipers is a referee with authority, that much is clear. On rare occasions, players will try to claim a throw-in, corner or penalty – especially if they are called Andy Robertson – but in general, the referee’s decisions are accepted without grumbling. At halftime, Kuipers gets a thumbs up from fellow countryman Wijnaldum and fellow captain Benzema also comes on the field for a while.

Kuipers does not whistle a clear first half, however: the arbiter is involved in several disputable moments. In minute one the tone is already set: Milner does not pull his leg back and Benzema gets full on his ankle. Kuipers, however, allows play to continue and Benzema remains amazed on the ground. Is that all allowed?, the star seems to radiate.

Furthermore, Kuipers is not busy, although it becomes very unfriendly halfway through the first half. Fabinho makes a rude foul on fellow countryman Casemiro, but Kuipers first gives an advantage and decides not to draw any cards.

He does that a little later: Casemiro can now walk again and immediately takes revenge with a tough tackle on Milner. The Liverpool bank springs up, Robertson interferes with the disturbance and Kuipers still has to intervene: first wait for the verdict of colleague Van Boekel, then yellow for Casemiro and Robertson. The Brazilian in particular gets away with that. “This is something more than yellow, isn’t it?”, Sierd de Vos concluded after reviewing the images.

Most important moments in the second half
’46: Theater game of a Real Madrid defender after a corner, but Kuipers does not budge. The conscious defender also gets up quickly.

47: Milner is running fast in midfield, no one responds.

51: Benzema is grabbed by Nathaniel Phillips, again no one responds

56: Toni Kroos is briefly held at the sidelines and looks surprised, Kuipers lets it go again.

’58: Phillips obstruction against Casemiro. Kuipers cannot ignore this and penalizes this professional foul with the third – and last – yellow card of the match.

’70: Nacho goes to the ground with a scream after a head duel with Fabinho. Kuipers concludes a free kick.

76: Alexander-Arnold goes to the ground in the box. Kuipers waves it away, no one protests.

Conclusion after the second half
After the break, Kuipers has to intervene once, but the second half continues fairly silently. Perhaps it also has to do with the course of the match, which has actually already fallen into a decisive fold. The well-organized, but tired-looking Real Madrid is not really necessary and – with the intense Clásico still in its legs – wants to reach the end unscathed. Liverpool doesn’t really seem to believe in a comeback anymore, after having missed so many opportunities.

In other words: Kuipers is not pushed to the limit, especially in the sluggish second half, by the stars of Liverpool and Real Madrid. Apart from those few moments in the opening phase then. Is UEFA going to take this seriously? You would say no. Kuipers is an established name in the European refereeing corps, can feel a match excellently and enjoys the respect of the greatest players, according to Wednesday at Anfield. Only Neymar will never be his best friend, but he will not participate in the European Championship anyway.
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