Howard Webb set a new World Cup final record after handing out 14 yellow cards and one red to Spain and Holland in a tempestuous climax to this tournament.
It was an ordeal by combat for the Yorkshire official and his assistants Darren Cann and Michael Mullarkey as Holland in particular tried to ’win ugly’.
It is not a record the 38-year-old Webb will be proud of but he was often left with little option as a tense encounter saw some crunching fouls and numerous late challenges.
Webb showed nine yellow cards to the Dutch – including two and a red to Everton’s John Heitinga – and five to Spain.
Webb easily surpassed the record of Brazilian referee Romuald Arppi Filho who showed six cards in the 1986 final between Argentina and West Germany.
Cann had the first tough call to make when he flagged for offside against David Villa. It was perfectly-judged however – as was one minutes later when he this time he allowed the striker to run through on goal only for the ball to run away from him.
But as Holland’s tackling became spikier, the busier Webb became. Robin van Persie, somewhat bizarrely, was first into the book for his second late challenge of the game and the Arsenal striker could have had no complaints about that.
Webb’s next decision was equally easy when Spain’s Carles Puyol slid recklessly into the back of Arjen Robben.
It was straightforward again when Mark van Bommel took out Andres Iniesta but he was perhaps a bit harsh on Sergio Ramos who merely clipped Dirk Kuyt - Spanish TV commentators certainly thought so.
An X-rated challenge by Nigel De Jong posed Webb his first real question when the Dutch midfielder smashed his boot studs-first into Xabi Alonso’s chest. The Spain bench went up as one and though Webb must have considered a red card he opted for yellow again.
By half-time five players were in the book, prompting Rio Ferdinand to say on Twitter: “The players aren’t making this easy for our referee Mr Webb! He’s handling it okay so far though.”
After the break Webb’s book was soon out again – Giovanni van Bronckhorst this time for pulling down Sergio Ramos – a professional foul, and again the right decision.
Heitinga and Spain’s Joan Capdevila made it eight bookings on the night before Webb had to deal with a couple of incidents with Spain players going down in the box – Alonso and Iniesta – but there were no big claims from the Spanish.
That was not the case when Xavi had his heels clipped by Heitinga during a melee in the box – a difficult one to call but a penalty nevertheless. However, Webb was not having it.
Robben also felt he was being fouled by Puyol when he ran through on goal and protested so much he too went in the book.
Heitinga received his second caution and then red for hauling back Iniesta before Gregory van der Wiel joined the yellow card party.
Joris Mathijsen was cautioned for protesting about Iniesta’s winner before the goalscorer himself gave the match a certain symmetry when he too found himself booked for removing his shirt in celebration.
Xavi made it a ludicrous 14 yellow cards for the match. A record yes – but not one that Webb will want to remember.
He was booed by the Dutch fans when he went up to collect his medal after the match, but they might want to consider he could have easily have dished out more.