I NEVER thought I would ever hear myself say it but I had sympathy for Premier League referee Michael Oliver this week.

In fact, I can include all referees in that because as much as we fans like to berate them for every mistake made, very few of us give credit where it’s due and I think that was certainly the case in midweek at the Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid.

With the holders Real Madrid staring a shock exit in the face against last year’s runners-up Juventus, on home soil, Oliver awarded the hosts a stoppage-time penalty and when you give players like Cristiano Ronaldo an opportunity like that to score, he rarely passes it up.

Understandably, the Juve players were livid and overstepped the mark in my view by getting in the face of Oliver, particularly someone as experienced as legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who saw red and rightly so.

We have all been there in the stands watching our team when a decision goes against us, incensed at the injustice from the man in the middle.

But in the cold light of day, those Juve players should be pointing the finger of blame at team-mate Mehdi Benatia because it was a clear foul on Madrid’s Lucas Vazquez that stopped him having a goalscoring opportunity. He made the decision to make that challenge, not Oliver.

Correctly, the Englishman pointed to the spot and the rest is history.

Buffon lambasted the north easterner post-match, claiming he had a rubbish bin for a heart and that he had no sensitivity to the occasion.

In contrast, my view is that he showed professionalism to not get swayed and had the courage to give the right call, no matter what the implications may have been or intimidation around him.

Buffon said Oliver ‘ruined a dream’ – I think Benatia did that Gianluigi.

While we await the widespread use of VAR (Video Assistant Referees) – and I hope we are waiting for some time yet – the referee has one look at every incident in real-time speed.

They don’t have the benefit of slow-motion replays and they are only human.

Does anybody really believe, like Pep Guardiola, that the Spanish official at the Etihad on Tuesday ignored City’s claims for a legitimate second goal on purpose?

He must have genuinely thought the ball came off a City leg and not James Milner before Leroy Sane tapped home.

Admittedly, he should have had the help of his colleague behind the goal whose existence continues to be questionable as they rarely seem to give any actual assistance.

But I firmly believe the man in the middle gave what he saw.

Yes there will be mistakes made, such is the pace of the game these days.

But no decision is taken lightly in my view and it’s a job I don’t think I would fancy.

Mind you, it probably won’t stop me shouting my disapproval from the stands this weekend if the call goes against my team.

But then that’s football and until VAR takes that debate away, the men in black will always bear the brunt.

Rather them than me.