MILAN - The referee at the centre of Juventus's controversial 3-2 win over title challengers Roma is set to be sidelined until November as the fall-out from Sunday's bad-tempered Serie A clash continues to divide Italy.
Giancluca Rocchi, considered Italy's number two referee, was slammed for his handling of the top-of-the-table encounter in Turin which allowed Juventus to pull three points clear.
He is expected to be rested for the remainder of the month to allow the dust to settle, according to reports in Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday, although he has been given the backing of the Italian referees' association (AIA).
"The players on the pitch were totally disrespectful. This is not something we see in the rest of Europe, where players accept the referee's decision. It's not acceptable," the AIA commented.
Rocchi, who awarded three penalties and issued three red cards during the explosive top-of-the-table clash, said his conscience was clear: "The players didn't help the situation, but all the same my conscience is clear." Yet two days after the encounter, opinion over the supposed influence of Juventus - who were stripped of two league titles from 2005 and 2006 for their role in the 'Calciopoli' match-fixing affair - remains divided.
In a country traditionally divided along regional lines and deep-rooted team loyalties, there was no shortage of opinion on Sunday's events.
Italian politician Fabrizio Cicchitto, a member of parliament for the New Centre-Right party, claimed little had changed since the dark days of 'Calciopoli', when Juventus's former general manager Luciano Moggi is said to have used his influence to pick and choose sympathetic referees for key games.
"The Juventus of Moggi, of manipulating games and referees, has not gone away," said Cicchitto.
Marco Travaglio, the journalist who coined the name 'Lucky Luciano' - a reference to the notorious Mafia gangster - to refer to Moggi's supposed influence, was also critical.
"I'm a Juventus supporter, and I haven't felt so ashamed since the days of Luciano Moggi," he said.
Monday's Corriere dello Sport's front page headline blasted: "Distorted Championship." But Juventus' general manager Beppe Marotta, speaking on the Processo del Lunedi television show, hit back: "This is out of order. How can we talk about a distorted championship after six match days, when there are still 32 games to play and 96 points available?" Roma's defeat, their first of the season under French coach Rudi Garcia saw the club's share price drop by two percentage points while those of Juventus lost only 0.09 per cent in value.
Rocchi, meanwhile, has seen his reputation take a battering despite the media now claiming, after two days of intense analysis, that his biggest mistake of the night was awarding Juventus's first penalty in the 26th minute when Roma wingback Maicon used his elbow to defend his face from an Andrea Pirlo free kick.
Although Maicon appeared to be just outside the penalty area, Rocchi hesitated, before appearing to bow to pressure from Juve's angry players.
Explaining his decision, Rocchi said the players had "scrubbed out" the vanishing spray used by referees to mark the distance between the ball and the defensive wall.
Former Serie A referee Paolo Casarin, who also served as chief of the league's refereeing body, said: "The biggest mistake made was the penalty decision against Maicon," Casarin told Radio Anch'io.
The penalty award, converted by Carlos Teves to give Juve a 1-0 lead, only added fuel to an already combustible atmosphere. And two further penalty decisions - one for each side - as well as Leonardo Bonucci's 86th minute winner for Juventus that Roma claimed was offside, led to angry clashes which marred the encounter.
French coach Garcia, who last week said the game would be a "great advert for Italian football", was sent off in the first half for a violin-playing gesture after the penalty award that was perceived to mean that with Juventus, it is always the same music (situation).