La Liga – Controversial Decisions Upset The Frontrunners

By Ralph Chery

Controversy was rife in La Liga this week. Real Madrid threatened to quit the league while Barcelona appealed to reverse two bookings issued to their players in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal.

The 2016-17 La Liga season has been a roller coaster ride so far. The latest drama sees Real Madrid contemplating leaving the league because their game at Celta Vigo last Sunday was postponed.

The home side postponed their game against Zinedine Zidane’s team after a 20-meter piece of the roof of the Bailados stadium was knocked loose by a storm earlier in the week.  However, Madrid president Florentino Perez and the club’s bosses feel that the league didn’t do everything in its power to ensure the game went ahead. It is stated in La Liga rules that every team needs an alternative field in case of disruption to their home stadium. Also, the league only announced the postponement the night before, throwing supporter travel plans into confusion. Madrid argue that, with the storm occurring 36 hours before the game, more advance notice should have been given about the decision.

Madrid now face a fixture pile up towards the end of the season with this and a previously postponed match against Valencia (due to Club World Cup commitments) to be rescheduled.  The Spanish FA are feeling the wrath of Real Madrid for their perceived mishandling of the situation, with Los Blancos threatening to take their ball and go and play in the proposed European Super League instead.

Controversial refereeing decisions are also making headlines in Spain with the outcomes of three major games affected by bad calls from the referees in the past two weeks.

Barcelona left back Jodi Alba scored against Real Betis in the 75th minute on Jan. 29th but the referee disallowed the goal, claiming the ball didn’t cross the goal line – when video shows that the ball was a meter inside the net.  The score was 1-0 in favor of Betis when Alba netted. The game ended in a 1-1 draw, depriving Barca of two vital points in their quest to overtake leaders Real Madrid.

Before the start of the season, La Liga president Javier Tebas claimed that goal-line technology was too expensive to implement. However, less than 24 hours after Alba’s disallowed goal, Tebas announced that the league will install video technology by 2018, if FIFA approves it.

On the same Sunday Alba’s goal was disallowed, Sevilla’s Nicolas Pareja (left) was wrongly ejected from his team’s game against Espanyol in the second minute. The referee whistled for a foul in the box committed by Pareja on Pablo Piatti when video replays show that Piatti clearly took a dive. Jose Antonio Reyes converted Betis’ penalty and Sevilla went on to lose the game 3-1. The Andalusian team is also chasing Madrid for first place, sitting behind them by three points.

Bad refereeing struck again in midweek fixtures as Barcelona hosted Atletico Madrid in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal. The referee disallowed Antoine Griezmann’s (above) potential equalizer for Atletico in the 59th minute, ruling the Frenchman offside. But Griezmann was a step behind the last defender, Gerard Pique.  And again in the 79th minute, the referee mistakenly called for a penalty kick against Pique. Fortunately for Barcelona, Kevin Gameiro missed the spot kick. The game finished in a 1-1 draw, but Luis Enrique’s side reached the final 2-1 on aggregate.

One minute before the end of the game, the referee gave Luis Suarez a second yellow card for elbowing Koke in the neck – but Barca argued that video replays show the incident not to be malicious. However the Uruguayan was ejected and will miss the final against Deportivo Alaves.

The Spanish champions launched an appeal against their top scorer’s sending off, and against  Sergio Busquets’ 95th minute yellow card which he received for kicking the ball away.