Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz “lost control” of Saturday’s heated Catalan derby after his side were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw against Espanyol at Camp Nou.
The match descended into chaos after Lahoz’s decision to award Espanyol a 73rd-minute penalty, with Joselu’s spot kick cancelling out Marcos Alonso’s opener.
In the 10 minutes that followed, Lahoz handed out seven yellow cards, red cards to Jordi Alba and Vinicius Souza to leave both teams with 10 men and a third red card to Leandro Cabrera, which he later overturned.
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“The game got away from him today,” Xavi said in a news conference after the game. “He was giving out cards without any reason and lost control of the match. But it’s not his fault we drew, it’s our fault we dropped points.”
Pressed on what he said to Lahoz at the full-time whistle, Xavi, who was also booked, added: “I told him that he had lost control of the game. ‘Do you think?’ he said to me.
“But we keep coming back to the referee and I can’t control the officials. They should come out and speak, explain their decisions and say what they said to the players. I can’t do anything.”
It was Lahoz’s first LaLiga match since he was criticised by players of both teams for his performance in Argentina’s World Cup quarterfinal win against the Netherlands in Qatar.
That game, in addition to Argentina’s shootout win on their way to the trophy, will be remembered for the 18 yellow cards and one red he dished out, a tournament record.
He produced 15 yellow cards and two reds in Saturday’s game at Camp Nou, but even before the second half, he had starred in a bizarre incident when he hugged Xavi on the sideline during the first half.
“He said he was happy to see me,” Xavi explained when asked what had happened. “I said I was happy to see him as well.”
The draw means Barca are now level with Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga after Los Blancos beat Real Valladolid on Friday, but Xavi was loath to place the responsibility for the dropped points at Lahoz’s feet.
– Referee Lahoz takes centre stage in chaotic Catalan derby
“It’s our fault we drew,” he said. “We can speak about the referee or other things, but it’s down to us. When you have so many chances, get forward so many times, but aren’t clinical, it is your fault.
“We had an excellent first 30 minutes, but we didn’t know how to kill the game off. In the second half, we weren’t at the rhythm or intensity required. We end the year top of the league with Real Madrid, but it’s two points dropped today and it’s our fault.
Espanyol coach Diego Martinez thought his side were good value for the draw — which moves them one point clear of the bottom three — as they became the first opposition side to score at Camp Nou in LaLiga this season.
“I am very proud of these players,” he said in a news conference. “They competed well with the DNA of this club and that strength of feeling that we have.
“We suffered when we had to, knowing who we were playing against, but we were able to control our emotions when we had to. The point strengthens what we are doing but more than anything I am really proud of the players.
“They stuck to the plan. It was not easy. When you go behind, sometimes you lose your heads, but they kept theirs. They competed really well and deserved the point.”