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Dumb and dumber
Chelsea made it to the final of the Champions League this week - holding off Barcelona at Camp Nou - but not before their captain, John Terry, put their future in the competition in real doubt.
With his side still ahead on aggregate but already facing something of an offensive onslaught from their illustrious opponents, Terry made the Blues' mission exponentially harder after he decided to knee the unaware Alexis Sanchez in the back with the ball a long way away.
Terry was given his marching orders, forcing his side to cope for the rest of the game with 10-men. In the spirit of that moment of idiocy, ESPN looks back at ten other ridiculous red cards that came out of nothing but blind stupidity...
The best player, on the biggest stage, making the biggest mistake of all. The 2006 World Cup final was supposed to prove a fitting conclusion to the Frenchman's fine career, and that looked like being the case after he clipped in a ludicrously casual penalty off the bar (and only just over the line) to give his country an early lead against Italy. But then everything went wrong; Zidane taking offence at some trash talk from man-marker Marco Materazzi (accounts of what he said differ, but it seems to have been something about Zidane's sister) before turning and burying his head into the former Everton defender's chest. It was a shocking moment that fully warranted the red card that soon came. Zidane's career ended with him trudging past the World Cup trophy and down the tunnel, as Italy went on to win the game and the tournament.
A classic of the genre, this, an inexplicable meltdown that arguably helped create the cult of Beckham as much as his memorable half-way line goal against Wimbledon. Redemption in the eyes of the English public was a laborious process after this indiscretion and deservedly so, as Beckham turned the tide of a 1998 World Cup second round match against Argentina with a stupid, petulant kick on Diego Simeone that earned him a straight red card. 'Ten brave lions, one stupid boy' read one memorable headline the next day, and you could not really question its accuracy. Edging into the ascendancy before the fateful kick, England ultimately went out on penalties. Only four years later, with a game-winner from the penalty spot against the same opposition in the group stage, would captain Beckham fully confirm his redemption.
We could quite easily have opted for Rooney's red in the European Championship qualifying against Montenegro last year (proof, perhaps, that the Manchester United striker hasn't really learned) but instead we're going for the original and most controversial; when the forward was sent off for kicking out at an over-attentive opponent during England's 2006 World Cup quarter-final against Portugal. Rooney never quite got the abuse Beckham did for his own personal failing - perhaps because much ire was re-directed at then-Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, who appeared to call for his dismissal and winked at the Portugal bench after the deed was accomplished - but it was perhaps equally stupid. The result, too, was the same - England were dumped out on penalties in a game that they could, perhaps should, have won. Without Rooney though, they were toothless.
Kieran Dyer & Lee Bowyer
Getting sent off for fighting an opponent is one thing, getting dismissed for fighting your own team-mate is quite another. Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer managed that particularly remarkable feat while playing for Newcastle against Aston Villa in the Premier League in 2005. The root cause for the dispute is hard to decipher, but Bowyer received the greater FA punishment as the perceived instigator and was soon shipped out to Birmingham City. Neither player really emerged from it with great credit, however.
One of the funnier moments from the current Europa League season, and it took place at the Britannia Stadium - of all places. Having seen his boot come off after a heavy challenge from Ryan Shotton, Maccaibi Haifa player Yoav Ziv proceded to lash the removed item in the direction of the linesman after he did not receive a free-kick, earning him a straight red card from the unimpressed referee. Foolish.
Doomed to be remembered as much for being the makeweight in Andy Cole's blockbuster move from Newcastle United to Manchester United as anything else he did in his career, Northern Irish winger Keith Gillespie added another interesting coda to his career summary with a 10-second cameo in Sheffield United's defeat to Reading in 2007. Coming on as a second half substitute, Gillespie barely had time to elbow Stephen Hunt in the face (that's just how quickly Hunt becomes annoying, we assume) before he was walking back the same way he had just come. United went on to lose, and went on to be relegated. Good going, Keith.
The Liverpool defender has had his share of gaffes during his career - a penchant for own goals providing most of them - but this might just top them all. Playing in a FA Cup match against Arsenal at Highbury in 2002, two quickfire sendings off for Martin Keown and Dennis Bergkamp had put the home crowd on edge. Shortly after Carragher walked over to the sideline to take a throw-in, whereupon he was hit by a coin thrown from the stands. Bristling with rage, he proceeded to pick up the offending item and violently hurl it back from whence it came. The referee failed to see the funny side, however - brandishing yet another red card as the baths in the dressing rooms began to fill up far sooner than expected.
We bang on about it in the ESPN offices - if you are going to be sent off for a stupid incident, then at least make sure it was worth it. We don't approve of Yugoslavia international Zoran Mirkovic's methods, but he did at least fulfil that first commandment. After going down softly after a tackle from opponent Robert Jarni, the Croatian proceeded to tell Mirkovic exactly what he thought of his play-acting. Mirkovic, to say the least, did not take kindly to receiving a few choice pointers - so proceded to grab Jarni by the crown jewels and tell him, no doubt less than politely, to "back off". Referees are renowned for valuing players' testicle safety above everything else - therefore, a red card was inevitable.
Paolo di Canio
Perhaps the most famous red card of the Premier League era, this was an incident that threatened to end the erratic Italian's career in England long before he had the chance to score that goal against Wimbledon for West Ham or, er, hold those bizarre press conferences as manager of Swindon. To be strictly accurate Di Canio, then at Sheffield Wednesday, had already been sent off before his moment of disgrace - as he pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground (after a somewhat comical staggered fall) as he stormed away. But the second act saw him handed an 11-game ban - although his reputation would be rescued years later after a special display of sportsmanship in a game against Everton.
So good we could list him thrice. Windass, playing for Aberdeen at the time, accrued an unwanted record as he picked up three red cards in the same match in 2007. His first dismissal was a standard second yellow card, but from there things descended into farce - with the future Hull legend being shown another red card for his subsequent dissent before earning a third for kicking the corner flag on his way off the pitch. Ya beauty.