Chris Coleman, the Wales manager, criticised referee Stefan Johannesson for sending off defender James Collins in their disappointing 2014 World Cup qualifying home defeat to Belgium.
Collins, making his first international start in 19 months, was dismissed in the 26th minute of an even Group A contest for a reckless lunge on full-back Guillaume Gillet.
Goals from Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen sealed an emphatic opening victory for the highly-fancied Belgians. But Coleman insisted the West Ham defender, who will now face a two-match suspension, was harshly treated by the Swedish official.
"I didn't think it was a red card," said Coleman. "I think the referee sent him off for the reaction of the player on the floor who played the full 90 minutes.
"Football is a contact sport and it wasn't malicious – I can't see it being a dangerous tackle. I'm not going to punish James – you can't stand off teams like Belgium, you have to get close and this wasn't a red card."
As if Wales' task wasn't daunting enough, they were rocked just hours before kick-off when Liverpool's Joe Allen was ruled out through illness, forcing centre-back Ashley Williams to fill the hole in central midfield.
The home side's commitment was undoubted and the Dragons had half chances through David Edwards and Simon Church, who was only inches from applying the finishing touch to Gareth Bale's centre.
Coleman would have been content with the early showing from his side, but this contest swung on Collins' crazy decision on the halfway line. Following the sending off, Kompany broke the deadlock with a near post header on 42 minutes before Vertonghen rifled home an 82nd minute free-kick.
Coleman added: "But with our strongest XI it was a tough game – and when you take half a dozen players out, lose Joe Allen eight hours before the game and you go down to 10 men then you've got a mountain to climb."
"I was disappointed with a lot of decisions but I wasn't disappointed with the players. I thought they were magnificent and ultimately we were beaten by a good team. If we repeat many aspects of that performance we'll be alright.
"We've now got to go to Serbia on Tuesday and get something by putting the ball in the net. There's no hiding from that."
Wales will assess Allen tomorrow before deciding on whether he will travel to the Balkans.
Booked: Wales , Vokes (83), Williams (83). Belgium Gillet 79, Vertonghen 89.
Sent off: Wales Collins (26).
Man of the match Axel Witsel (Belgium).
Match rating 7/10.
Possession: Wales 43%. Belgium 57%.
Attempts on target: Wales 3. Belgium 11.
Referee S Johannesson (Swe).
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