atleticATLETICO Madrid captain Gabi criticised both the card-happy referee and Barcelona’s double-goalscorer Neymar, after his team crashed out of the Copa del Rey. Atleti lost 3-2 in Wednesday evening’s quarterfinal second-leg at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
The contest was decided during a helter-skelter first 45 minutes saw Atletico twice take the lead, but Barca go to the break 4-2 up on aggregate and in full control of the tie.
The opening period also featured an erratic performance by referee Jesus Gil Manzano, who awarded Atletico a debatable penalty, but then denied them another in a move which ended directly in Neymar scoring his side’s third goal.
The half-time whistle saw Neymar involved in a confrontation with Atletico goalscorer Fernando Torres, while Gabi was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for continuing his vociferous complaints to the referee down into the Calderon tunnel.
The Colchoneros on-pitch leader told Canal Plus on the final whistle that Neymar had been guilty of some unsportsmanlike behaviour when his side had been winning the game.
“[Neymar] has a way of playing which is a bit peculiar, above all when his team is winning,” Gabi said. “He always makes gestures on the pitch. Nobody likes to lose and, with the tension, these things annoy you.”
Gabi also said he did not understood why Gil Manzano had taken such objection to their half-time conversation, and made a decision which meant Atletico could not compete from then on.
“Well, my words were ‘Jesus, it was a penalty and a red card; look at the TV, you will see you have made a mistake’,” Gabi said. “Then I shouted, and he said ‘you are sent off’.” I did not say anything else. The team was left with a man less, and you saw that in the second half.”
The midfielder said the official, who showed 13 yellow cards and two red cards in all over the 90 minutes — had angered Atletico’s players with his attitude and refusal to discuss decisions with the players.
“We all make mistakes, but we must accept our errors,” Gabi said. “Of course, he should have more responsibility, and more dialogue with the players.”
Despite his team finishing with nine men after Mario Suarez was also sent to the bath late on, Atletico coach Diego Simeone told his post-match news conference that he was proud of how his players had carried themselves during the tie.
“I feel proud of my players,” he said. “The first half was extraordinary. They showed a great rebellious spirit. It was very difficult to play because the ball was jumping around like a rabbit. They played on the counter-attack, which they do not usually do, and they did it very well.”
Simeone admitted that during the second half he had decided the game was up, and told his players to ease off and just ensure no more damage was done.
“I tried to do the best for the club and the team,” he said. “It was my decision to play without trying to score, and without risking that they score. We played a more advisable game. I am the coach and I decide what is best. For me the game ended in the first half.”
Asked for his judgement on the performance of Gil Manzano, Simeone preferred to bring up last May’s final day draw at Barcelona’s Camp Nou which saw Atletico claim the 2013-14 La Liga title.
“Sincerely my judgement is that having come away champion from Barcelona’s ground is the greatest thing that these kids have been able to do,” he said.
The Argentine coach’s overall judgement on Atletico’s Copa campaign, which saw them eliminate holders and neighbours Real Madrid in the last 16, was positive.
“We had a good Copa,” he said. “To knock out L’Hospitalet and Madrid were big things. We then competed with Barcelona.”