The Atletico game was just as I think most people expected it would be on the night in terms of physicality; certainly not a game for the faint-hearted. Some of the tackles were a bit strong to say the least and in the early part of the match these probably warranted more than the token ticking-off that the German referee, Felix Brych, seemed to be fond of giving. While appreciating that he likely wanted to keep the game flowing as much as possible, perhaps some earlier interventions with the yellow cards might have prevented some of the rough stuff that followed later.
The tackle by Arda Turan on Sergio Ramos was a typical example. Of course only Arda himself can say whether his timing was just out a little or if he was deliberately late or not, but it certainly looked that way from the cheap seats. It's easy to be critical of the referee, but the practise of ‘leaving your foot' for the other player to make contact with has resulted in many a nasty injury over the years.
Referees usually miss this tackle. It happens more often than not to defenders making a clearance rather than to forwards because of the natural flow of the game. As the ball is played the attacking player simply leaves his foot in such a position that the defender can't avoid making contact with it as he makes the clearance. The defender's leg swings forward as part of the kicking action, his shin or upper ankle then makes solid contact with the studs of the challenging player; at best he sustains a severe bruising of the lower shin / upper ankle and at worst is stretchered off with a break.
Referees are a sharper nowadays to players ‘leaving their foot' than they used to be, but they still often miss it. Players know that nine times out ten the referee's eyes will be following the ball in the air as it's cleared and it's at that exact moment when the challenge comes in that does all the damage. A player intent on maiming an opponent doesn't even have to make the effort to follow through; the mere fact that his foot just happens to be there does all the damage and he can always claim later that he was going for the ball.
This type of foul is made even worse by the fact that most defenders will also be looking where the ball has gone and they often doesn't see that the studs are there until the last minute.
The worst kind of injuries sustained from challenges like these are usually when a defender's leg isn't properly tensed enough to resist direct contact. A trailing limb is always that bit more vulnerable than a rigid knee or ankle. If the defender suspects that his opponent is likely to leave his foot, or has done so earlier in the game, then they are generally well prepared but lapses in concentration can result in serious injury. Sergio Ramos protected himself by not leaving his leg hanging in the air but less experienced players may have come off worse.
In addition to the trauma caused by direct contact, other injuries can be sustained. It's very easy to damage ankle or knee ligaments in challenges like these, especially if the knee is twisted or the ankle is forced back with the toes pointed downwards; a bit like kicking the ground when the forces multiply and reverberate up the leg. If the leg is ‘dangling' then it's even more likely to sustain an injury as the contact is made.
We've said before that if you know your players you can always tell whether they are injured not. Real Madrid fans will know who the players are that go down easily whenever a challenge is made and Sergio Ramos isn't one of them. The fact that he actually stayed down holding his ankle illustrated the strength of Turan's challenge. You can always tell from players' faces whether an injury is genuine or not and it was obvious that Sergio was in pain. It took a few minutes for him to get to his feet but in a way he was indirectly helped by the referee showing the Turkish international the red card, since Arda's long slow walk when leaving the field provided a bit more recovery time.
The sending-off incident was a definite turning point in the game, but Sergio Ramos took a lot of criticism from the media over his reaction. He's not normally a player who stays down injured and some of the papers on Thursday morning were unnecessarily harsh with allegations of play-acting being made. Of all the players who could potentially be charged with the latter perhaps Sergio Ramos is the least likely to be guilty. The fact remains that the challenge by Arda Turan, whether deliberately late or not as only he will know, resulted in an injury being sustained which could have turned out to be a lot worse.
Thankfully Sergio Ramos was at least braced for the challenge; likely as a result of what had gone on before. There had been three or four ‘over the top' tackles earlier in the game that could also have led to serious injury. Would Arda Turan have been given a straight red if he hadn't been booked beforehand?
All in all I don't think the referee had too bad a game, but if he had taken stronger action earlier in the proceedings then perhaps scenarios like the one leading to the sending off could have been avoided.