Enrique slams Barca fans for booing his players during tense 2-1 victory

BARCELONA • Barcelona coach Luis Enrique labelled the harsh treatment dished out to his players by Barca fans "nonsensical", as the Spanish football champions squeezed past Leganes 2-1 in the Primera Liga on Sunday.

Following a 4-0 Champions League thrashing at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain in midweek, Barcelona needed a last-minute Lionel Messi penalty to see off a Leganes side without a win since November and on their first-ever league visit to the Nou Camp.

Messi had given Barcelona a fourth-minute lead, but jeers rang around the stadium when Unai Lopez levelled 19 minutes from time.

Much-criticised midfielder Andre Gomes received the brunt of the boos as he was replaced 10 minutes from the end.

"As a fan, booing a player of your own team for me makes no sense," said Enrique. "What can clearly help the team and the players is the support that we saw from the majority of the fans throughout the game and especially in the final minutes."

However, the Spaniard added that he had no such problem with criticism directed his way.

"I am the coach and after the result and performance we saw in Paris it is logical," he said.

"I accept any criticism, but those on the pitch need to be in the best state possible.

"The games are difficult enough as they are. If you add this on top of it, I don't think it helps.

"The PSG result weighed heavily on us and we controlled the game although we lacked confidence at some moments. But we won the game and even though we did it with a penalty, it was very welcome."

Victory ensured Barca moved back up to second in the table on 51 points and to within a point of Real Madrid, who still have two games in hand.

Barca face a much stiffer test next weekend when they travel to Atletico Madrid, but Enrique highlighted the psychological importance of getting the three points despite a poor display.

"A slip-up today would have been almost definitive. Not in terms of points, but on an emotional level," the 46-year-old said. "I am convinced that the team is going to improve and immediately."

Goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen echoed his coach's call for a show of unity from the Barcelona faithful. "Everyone that is on the field tried their best and I think the most important thing is to support us at times like we have had this week with the 4-0 defeat in Paris," the German said.

"We need the fans, above all at home, to support us. We can win or lose together, but the most important thing is that we are united."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2017, with the headline 'Enrique slams Barca fans for booing his players during tense 2-1 victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe