Real Madrid's Toni Kroos, left, challenges for the ball with...

Real Madrid's Toni Kroos, left, challenges for the ball with Bayern's Jamal Musiala during the Champions League semifinal second leg soccer match between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, May 8, 2024. Credit: AP/Jose Breton

BERLIN — Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos criticized match officials for their controversial offside call which benefited his team against Bayern Munich during the Champions League semifinals.

Bayern defender Matthijs de Ligt thought he’d equalized to send last week's game to extra time when he fired the ball into Madrid’s net in the 13th minute of stoppage time.

But referee Szymon Marciniak had already blown his whistle after his assistant quickly raised his flag for a possible offside infringement.

Too quickly, Kroos said Wednesday.

“It’s bad handling. You have to let play continue,” the Germany player said in a podcast he runs with his brother Felix. “I think the mistake is primarily the linesman’s.”

Bayern was trailing 2-1 and needed a goal to force extra time to keep alive its hopes of reaching the final. UEFA tells match officials not to stop play immediately for tight offside calls. And TV replays showed it was a very close call.

“If he raises the flag now, the referee assumes that his linesman sees it exactly that way and trusts him that it was probably three meters offside,” said Kroos, who said he understood Bayern’s frustrations. “The anger is justified because you just have to play the situation to the end, 100%.”

Kroos said he was unsure if Madrid defenders would have stopped de Ligt’s shot had there not been an intervention from the referee.

“I don’t know if there was a collective switching off because you could hear the whistle very early,” Kroos said. “You could tell the tension dropped among everyone who wanted to defend this goal.”

Madrid won the second leg 2-1 to reach the final in London on June 1. Borussia Dortmund will try to stop the Spanish giant from claiming its 15th European title.

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