Officials should be ashamed: Valencia

Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta in pain after injuring his ligaments and knee during the match at Valencia on Saturday.
Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta in pain after injuring his ligaments and knee during the match at Valencia on Saturday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Barcelona defender Lucas Digne (top) challenging Valencia defender Joao Pedro Cavaco Cancelo for the ball. Lionel Messi's late spot kick sealed Barca's 3-2 win.
Barcelona defender Lucas Digne (top) challenging Valencia defender Joao Pedro Cavaco Cancelo for the ball. Lionel Messi's late spot kick sealed Barca's 3-2 win.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Sporting director, coach both fuming over contentious decisions after Barca eke out win

MADRID • Valencia's sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch railed against the "absolutely lamentable" display of the referee, after Barcelona snatched a controversial 3-2 win at the Mestalla on Saturday.

Lionel Messi converted a 94th-minute penalty in a bad-tempered La Liga match overshadowed by a serious knee injury to Barca's Andres Iniesta, who is likely to be sidelined for the rest of the year.

Valencia are likely to face action from La Liga authorities after Neymar was struck by a plastic bottle thrown from the crowd as the Barca players celebrated the winner.

However, Valencia were incensed that Messi's opening goal was allowed to stand despite Luis Suarez being in an offside position and interfering with play.

The home side were angered further when referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco did not send off Sergio Busquets before half-time and waved away Valencia's appeal for a penalty when Samuel Umtiti barged into Rodrigo Moreno in the area in the first half.

"When Undiano Mallenco and his assistants see this match again, they ought to be ashamed of having played such a part in a game that Valencia didn't deserve to lose," Pitarch thundered to BeIN Sports Spain.

"It is lamentable, absolutely lamentable that refereeing decisions prevented Valencia from taking a point or more from this match."

Valencia coach Cesare Prandelli took charge of his first game at the Mestalla and nearly oversaw a huge upset, as goals from Barca loanee Munir El Haddadi and Rodrigo overturned a Messi opener.

"I don't like to talk about referees, but the images speak for themselves," said Prandelli.

Suarez's equaliser set up a grandstand finish and Messi coolly slotted past Diego Alves from the spot after Suarez had been felled inside the area deep into stoppage time.

The win provisionally lifted champions Barca to the top of La Liga.

The hotly contested game was marred by Enzo Perez's late tackle from behind in the 12th minute that forced Iniesta off on a stretcher.

The Spain midfielder's knee appeared to buckle from under him. He was clearly in pain and held a hand over his face when he was put on a stretcher and carried off.

Barca later issued a statement saying Iniesta had injured the lateral collateral ligaments and part of his right knee. The 32-year-old will undergo further tests.

"The worst news is Iniesta's injury," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, said. "But the team showed the desire they have. How we won says a lot about the spirit and character of this team."

He was also furious that Perez was not booked.

"It was a clear action in which we saw a player injured and yet there was no yellow card," he said. "Tomorrow, we will see how bad the injury is, but yes, he will be out for weeks. It's a serious injury."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Officials should be ashamed: Valencia'. Print Edition | Subscribe