Lionel Messi was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons for once on Tuesday during Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Athletic at the Camp Nou.
The captain went into the game chasing his 700th goal but found himself in the midst of controversy for a challenge on Athletic defender Yeray Álvarez in the 69th minute of the clash.
Tonight's match wasn't without controversy 👀
Should Messi have seen red for this stamp on Yeray?
— MARCA in English (@MARCAinENGLISH) June 23, 2020
Yeray was not injured in the challenge and was able to continue, while Messi was not sanctioned at all by the referee. Some commentators claimed the Argentine should have seen red.
Not a nice challenge from Messi – late on Yeray and studs down on his ankle. Could easily have been a red – but doesnt seem to have even been yellow…
— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) June 23, 2020
BTW Barça fans… your turn to get bashed for VAR is today. Messi should have been sent off on the stomp. #FCBLive
— Juan G. Arango 🇨🇴 🇮🇹 (@JuanG_Arango) June 23, 2020
Barcelona went on to win the match 1-0 to return to the top of the table in La Liga. Messi set up Ivan Rakitic for the only goal of the game to claim his 250th assist for Barcelona in all competitions.
Controversy a Theme in La Liga
The incident at the Camp Nou involving Messi will not go down well with Real Madrid fans following controversy in their opening matches since La Liga resumed.
Valencia saw a goal chalked off during their 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid which prompted Barcelona defender Gerard Pique to hint that referees were favoring Zinedine Zidane’s side.
More debate raged after Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Real Sociedad on Sunday that sent Los Blancos back to the top of the table. Vinícius Júnior won a penalty following minimal contact, La Real had what would have been an equalizer disallowed and Karim Benzema scored despite appearing to handball in the build-up.
The decisions made headline news in Spain the next day:
Here’s @alexkirkland with today’s 🗞 headlines after Real Madrid’s controversial 2-1 win at Real Sociedad.
— The Spanish Football Podcast (@tsf_podcast) June 22, 2020
Manager Zidane said after the match he was “annoyed” by all the talk about referees. Barcelona coach Setien has also been asked about the controversial decisions and felt VAR is “not being used correctly.”
Messi Influence Crucial Again
Barcelona can be forgiven for being relieved no action was taken against Messi, although it’s worth pointing out the two players have clashed in similar circumstances before with not action deemed necessary by the match officials.
La caverna pide la expulsión de Messi por un pisotón a Yeray sin ninguna intención, dicen que si fuese al revés hubieran expulsado al jugador del Athletic.
La realidad es que el año pasado Yeray pisó a Messi, no lo expulsaron, no intervino el VAR y la caverna ocultó lo sucedido pic.twitter.com/ItXcRD7UqG
— Zona_Blaugrana (@Zona_Blaugrana) June 23, 2020
Quique Setien’s side found it hard going against Athletic until substitute Rakitic popped up with the winner. Although Messi did not score he was once again influential and remains key to Barcelona’s title hopes.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) June 23, 2020
Real Madrid has the chance to move back top and level on points with Barcelona today against struggling Real Mallorca. Vicente Moreno’s side has not won in three games since La Liga resumed and are three points from safety.
Barcelona will now turn their attentions to Saturday’s trip to Celta Vigo before they return to the Camp Nou for another very tricky test against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.