FC Bayern Munich’s frustration in the Champions League semi-final at Real Madrid is accompanied by a highly emotional debate about the referee and a scene shortly before the final whistle. What happened around the 1:2 and referee Szymon Marciniak in the second leg that caused so much anger?

Das ist Szymon Marciniak

The Pole is one of the world’s elite referees. Marciniak (43) refereed the 2022 World Cup final between Argentina and France and the 2023 Champions League final between Manchester City and Inter Milan. So he is very experienced and a good game leader for a long time on Wednesday too. His Munich balance sheet is now balanced. Two wins against Benfica Lisbon in the group phase and in the quarter-finals are offset by a defeat at Atlético Madrid and one at Real Madrid.

That’s the excitement

It is the 13th minute of injury time, Bayern are behind 1-2 after a double strike from Joselu (88th, 90th 1). Matthijs de Ligt’s supposed equalizer was not given and also not checked by the video assistant because referee Marciniak blew his whistle shortly before the Dutchman’s goal because of a previous supposed offside position. After a long ball from Joshua Kimmich, Noussair Mazraoui and de Ligt were offside – or at a similar level with Real’s German defender Antonio Rüdiger.

That’s what Bayern say

“It’s against all the rules of modern football. Raising the flag in a situation like this, where you can never, never, never be sure that it’s offside, is a tough decision,” says coach Thomas Tuchel. “We’re just angry, we left everything out there. It was a real fight, we put in the punch and are almost over the finish line.” After a 1-0 lead by Alphonso Davies and two late goals, a 2-2 equalizer after the 2-2 in the first leg would have meant extra time.

This is how the referee reacts

Marciniak apologizes for blowing the whistle too early when de Ligt made it 2-2. “You can apologize. It’s also good and smart that he does it,” says Bayern captain Manuel Neuer and speculates: “He probably got infected in the situation that he was a referee at the Bernabéu. That’s allowed “It doesn’t happen at this level. You have to make decisions the way you’ve learned to, if you don’t immediately recognize whether it was offside, it wasn’t the right thing to do.”

Tuchel later literally talked himself into a rage at the press conference. “Of course we accept the apology as sportsmen. But it’s a semi-final, it’s not the moment for apologies, honestly,” said the Bayern coach. “It’s not the time for such blatant video violations. Everyone has to reach the limit, everyone has to suffer, everyone has to play without mistakes. The referees at this level have to do the same. It doesn’t help if you say sorry afterwards. That’s why you’re on the field, that’s why you’re the best there is out there. And if you can’t deliver that, it doesn’t help.”

That’s what experts say

“When it’s that close, you have to let the situation unfold and wait. You have to give the VAR the opportunity to intervene, which is why the referee team blew the whistle prematurely. This way they took away that opportunity. Ultimately, they blew the whistle far too early,” said former German referee and ServusTV expert Lutz Wagner.

The former top Swiss referee Urs Meier said on the Swiss streaming service “blue sport”: “One scene can ruin everything again – but the referee team didn’t do it well. That’s certainly not the line that UEFA or FIFA want. With them You should let things run their course and then you can still look at it when it’s tipped over to the other side.”

Manuel Gräfe sees “no punishable offside position” around de Ligt on ZDF. The assistant on the sidelines should have waited in this tight situation and made the first mistake, says the long-time DFB referee. “Then Marciniak, with all his experience, should have known that in a game like this in the last few minutes I would just wait until the situation was finally dead. Unfortunately, he blew the whistle too early.” That was “very, very bitter” for Bayern.