Reuters Soccer Blog
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Has there ever been a more stupid and pointless sending off than Simon Vukcevic’s dismissal for Sporting against Fiorentina in the Champions League play-off round on Tuesday night?
The 23-year-old Montenegro striker, booked for getting involved in a petty squabble with an opponent after 12 minutes, then scored after 58 minutes to put Sporting level at 1-1 after Fiorentina had taken an early lead.
Its impossible to know what went through his head next. Running back with his team mates he took off his shirt in celebration and despite putting it back on a few seconds later was shown a second yellow card and then a red by Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai who gave him a look as if to say, “Sorry mate, rules are rules.”
Not only did that leave Sporting with 10 men for over half-an-hour it also means the Montenegro international will be banned for next week’s second leg in Italy, and that arguably could cost them the tie which is up for grabs after the sides battled to a 2-2 draw in Lisbon.
Soccer leagues in the Balkans are suffering from an uncontrolled outflow of talent to wealthier and more competitive environments in Europe and it’s a trend that’s benefiting some of the region’s national teams.
At least three countries that emerged from the former Yugoslavia stand a good chance of reaching next year’s World Cup in South Africa.