Luis Suarez is in the spotlight for all the right and wrong reasons in the wake of the fiery all-Spanish quarter-final first leg between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Suarez scored both goals as Barca roared back from a half-time deficit to claim a slender advantage 2-1, but Atletico were furious the Uruguayan he was not sent off after two incidents either side of half-time.
In the first half, Suarez swung a leg at Juanfran after the visiting full-back made a clearance, and towards the end of the match he left Brazilian international Filipe Luis on the floor with what appeared to be a pre-meditated punch or slap to the face.
But German referee Felix Brych, who sent off Fernando Torres for two yellow cards in the first half, did not deem the first incident worthy of any punishment and only handed Suarez a yellow card for the second, leaving Atleti crying conspiracy.
Outraged Luis led his club’s offensive immediately after the game by claiming that Barca are “protected” by referees and stating he doesn’t understand what it would take for one of the Blaugrana players to be sent off.
Although the left-back was later reprimanded by boss Diego Simeone for exposing himself to a possible ban with his claims of conspiracy theory, Atleti chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin has supported the defender’s outspoken stance.
“Barcelona don’t need this kind of assistance,” said Marin. “The result takes away the illusion of being able to compete on equal terms.
“The effort we made did not deserve this. We want the same rules applied to everyone – if Torres is suspended, then Luis Suarez should be too.”
Words by Andy West.
Following Tuesday night’s battle at the Nou Camp, here are five previous examples where Barcelona seemed to receive preferential treatment from the officials.
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Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona – 2008-09 Champions League semi-final
Towards the end of Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge, Barcelona went through into the final with a stunning last-gasp goal from Andres Iniesta in a game which saw Chelsea have five penalty appeals turned down.
Barcelona 1-0 Inter Milan – 2009-10 Champions League semi-final
Inter midfielder Thiago Motta was shown a straight red card for a soft challenge on Sergio Busquets. But Jose Mourinho’s men had the last laugh, with their ten men holding on to go through 3-2 on aggregate.
Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal – 2010-11 Champions League last 16
The tie swung decisively in Barca’s favour when visiting striker Robin van Persie was controversially sent off, receiving a second yellow card for timewasting after shooting when he had been flagged offside.
Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona – 2010-11 Champions League semi-final
Barca established an insurmountable first-leg advantage after Pepe was sent off for a high challenge on Dani Alves. After the tie, Madrid boss Jose Mourinho launched into a famous “Porque?” rant about the officials.
Barcelona 3-1 AC Milan – 2011-12 Champions League quarter-final
A pair of soft first-half penalties made the difference, firstly when Lionel Messi was fouled in an offside position, and the second when Busquets went to ground before a corner. Messi converted both.
The Spaniard’s team take a slender 1-0 lead into their return quarter-final next week, following Arturo Vidal’s goal 109 seconds into Tuesday’s first-leg tie.
And Guardiola, who is still seeking his first Champions League as Bayern boss in his final season at the Allianz Arena, is confident the Bundesliga side have what it takes to reach the last four.
“In the second leg, it is the difference-maker,” the 45-year-old said.
“We will go to Lisbon, watch the first-leg again and be prepared. We are now in a better position before the game.”
Pep Guardiola praised match-winner Arturo Vidal after his early headed goal gave Bayern Munich a slender 1-0 win over Benfica at the Allianz Arena in the Champions League quarter-final first leg.
Vidal’s second-minute goal was all that separated the two teams on an evening when Bayern were unusually subdued for long periods and struggled to break down their opponents, who grew into the game as it went on.
On a night when the likes of Thomas Muller, Franck Ribery, Robert Lewandowski and Douglas Costa were largely kept quiet, Vidal, in his first season at the club after joining from Juventus, stood out in midfield by both providing a shield for the defence and helping start Bayern’s attacks.
“He has been a very important player for us and has a great personality on the pitch as well as lots of experience,” the Spaniard said post-match.