“Fantastic” decision to give advantage for Man City goal against Real Madrid, says Mark Halsey

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Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey has praised the standard of the officiating in last night’s big game in the Champions League between Manchester City and Real Madrid.

The two teams played out a classic at the Etihad Stadium, with Man City edging it 4-3 on the night to take a slender advantage into their upcoming second leg at the Bernabeu.

Halsey said it was a “super” game to watch, and he also praised the way referee Istvan Kovacs dealt with it throughout, particularly on the key decision to play the advantage for Bernardo Silva’s goal in the second half.

“What a super game that was. It was 4-3 and it probably could’ve been 7-3. I thought the referee Istvan Kovacs handled the game very well,” Halsey told CaughtOffside.

“The advantage he played for Bernardo Silva’s goal was fantastic – textbook refereeing. There was a foul on Zinchenko, but he held his whistle but didn’t rush it, just held it and let play go on.”

This smart refereeing earned praise from another former ref Keith Hackett, who tweeted that the standard in the Champions League is so much higher than we normally see in domestic games here.

Halsey admits that we tend to see a much higher standard in UEFA games, but explained why that shouldn’t really be surprising.

“Regarding the referees in the Champions League vs the ones we see in the Premier League…what you’ve got to remember is the ones selected by UEFA are the absolute elite group,” Halsey said. “They are the cream of the crop, the top referees in their country. You only ever have one or two from each country making that elite group, so it’s not surprising, they should be at a higher level.

“We saw at Euro 2020, the standard of officiating was superb, as was the use of VAR. That’s because we’re seeing the very best from each country there. You very rarely see an indifferent performance from a referee in the Champions League.

“Of course, it still happens from time to time. We saw that in the quarter-final between Atletico Madrid and Manchester City in the second leg – that referee didn’t stamp his authority on the game early on. But it’s rare that we see a poorer performance like that. And if they don’t perform well they don’t get another game, so they’re on their toes all the time. UEFA keep a close eye on them, and that’s why the standard is high, and I thought last night’s referee controlled the game really well.”

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