Eurozone: Red-card folly fires up Real as Barça falter

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The Independent Football

They had been making fools of themselves all week, so it made a pleasant change for Real Madrid when someone else was left looking silly on Saturday night. Step forward referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz, who took charge of their 2-0 win over Getafe, and Barcelona defenders Gerard Pique and Rafa Marquez, who gifted Osasuna a last-minute point in Pamplona.

Even by Spanish refereeing standards, Lahoz's decision to give Real defender Raul Albiol a red card on 27 minutes took some believing. No number of replays could change the fact that Albiol had done nothing more than engage in some reciprocal shirt-holding with the Getafe striker Roberto Soldado on the edge of the box – somehow interpreted by the referee as a professional foul from the last defender.

Until the sending-off nothing had suggested Real's players were about to turn on the style to help their under-fire coach Manuel Pellegrini, but the injustice served as a wake-up call and, with two second-half goals from Gonzalo Higuain, they ended a run of four games without a win.

Barcelona kicked off immediately after Real and were just seconds from restoring the three-point lead over them when Osasuna took advantage of some uncharacteristically sloppy defending to earn a draw with the last kick of the game. Marquez allowed Javier Camunas to wriggle past him down the Osasuna left and his hard, low cross was turned inside Victor Valdes' near post by Pique.

It was a rare error from the man Barça fans call "Piquenbauer" and one that owed much to the shortcomings of his central defensive partner. With Carles Puyol filling in at right-back for the injured Dani Alves, Pep Guardiola's options for defensive partners for Pique are limited to new signing Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Marquez. One looks every bit like someone who has just arrived at the club and the other like someone who should probably be on his way out. Seydou Keita got the Barça goal, taking his tally to six for the season, level with Leo Messi.

Real Madrid's goal hero, Higuain, backed manager Manuel Pellegrini, saying: "We are all with the coach." And more significantly the club's president, Florentino Perez, said: "I am convinced Pellegrini will finish the season on a positive note." Real's Chilean manager looks set to stick with Higuain who now has four goals in 378 minutes of football this season – one more than new signing Karim Benzema, who has played 10 games.

Chelsea's Champions League opponents, Atletico Madrid, slipped further into the relegation mire, losing 1-0 to Athletic Bilbao, marking a bad first league game in charge for their new coach, Quique Sanchez Flores.



Everybody is talking about...

Mark Hughes was in the crowd to watch Barcelona's visit to Osasuna on Saturday night with all indications pointing towards the home side's young full-back pairing of Cesar Azpilicueta and Ignacio Monreal being the reason for the trip. It will not, however, have escaped Hughes' attention that two previous City targets, Thierry Henry and Yaya Touré, were unused substitutes for Barça.



Player of the week

Marco Borriello scored twice from two Ronaldinho assists in Milan's 2-0 a win over Parma. But with Napoli storming back to win 3-2 against second-placed Juventus, Internazionale's 2-0 win over Livorno sent them seven points clear at the top. Roma got only their second win in seven in the league with a 2-1 win over Bologna to ease the pressure on Claudio Ranieri's team, who were targeted by a letter bomb sent to the club's training ground last week.

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