Uefa's disciplinary unit has launched an investigation after Real Madrid players Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso were sent off in suspiciously similar circumstances in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Both Alonso and Ramos were dismissed for second bookable offences in the final minutes of Real 4-0 win over Ajax in Amsterdam, that confirmed top place in Group G. In both cases the second offence was time-wasting, as Alonso and Ramos delayed taking a free-kick and a goal-kick respectively. Real were 4-0 ahead at the time.
The similarity of the dismissals has fuelled suspicion the red cards were incurred on purpose, so the pair would be available for the knock-out stages. They will miss Real's match at home to Auxerre on 8 December, which is irrelevant given Real's guarantee of first place. Crucially, Alonso and Ramos had already been booked in the group stages, in the wins over Ajax at home and Auxerre away respectively, and their suspension next month will wipe those from their records. Had they played against Auxerre next month and received their second bookings then, they would have been suspended for the first leg of Real Madrid's last-16 tie.
Suspicions that the bookings were orchestrated by the Real Madrid coach, Jose Mourinho, were furthered given substitute goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek's apparent passing of a message, via captain Iker Casillas, to Alonso and Ramos in the second half, as well as Mourinho speaking to Alonso on the touch-line just before the former Liverpool midfielder was dismissed.
Uefa confirmed yesterday that they were aware of the red cards and would investigate further before deciding whether to charge those involved. Under article 5.1 of the European governing body's regulations dealing with loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship, both players could be charged and have their suspensions extended.
Mourinho has denied any collusion or wrong-doing, and placed responsibility for the red cards on the match officials. "I spoke with many players throughout the game, not only with Ramos and Alonso," he said. "The two red cards were the result of strange referee bookings in an easy game to monitor.
"I didn't like them one bit, but if Ramos or Alonso can't face Auxerre others will take their place," he added. "We will not give our game against the French away. We want to win all our matches."
On the losing side on Tuesday night was Ajax's Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, who has accepted a seven-match ban from the Dutch Football Association for biting an opponent during Saturday's match against PSV Eindhoven.
Suarez, who has been linked with a move to Chelsea, had already been given a two-match suspension by Ajax having been caught biting the PSV midfielder Otman Bakkal during the 0-0 draw.