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Referee 'clearly damaged' Alaves' chances vs. Barcelona - Laguardia

Alejandro Moreno explains how Philippe Coutinho and Lionel Messi struggled to complement each other in Coutinho's first start for Barcelona.
Lionel Messi discusses Barca's recent tough clash with Espanyol and the latest additions of Philippe Coutinho and Yerry Mina.
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ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno assesses Javier Mascherano's legacy and importance to Barcelona during his near eight-year spell with the club.

Alaves defender Victor Laguardia suggested his side were denied a last-minute penalty at Camp Nou because of the goal that was not given to Lionel Messi against Valencia in November.

Barcelona had to come from behind to beat Alaves on Sunday to maintain their unbeaten league record, but they could have seen their hard work undone if referee Iglesias Villanueva awarded a late penalty for a handball by Samuel Umtiti.

Ernesto Valverde said the handball was "involuntary" and the only thing Umtiti could have done to avoid the contact would have been to "chop his hand off."

However, the Barca coach did acknowledge that sometimes those decisions go against you, while referencing Messi's non-goal against Valencia as an example when something has not gone in the Catalan's favour this season.

Laguardia also referenced that moment, pointing out that it was Villanueva who had committed that mistake at the Mestalla when Valencia goalkeeper Neto clearly fumbled Messi's shot over the line.

Villanueva did not give the goal, though, to the ire of the Barca players, and Laguardia feels that may have gone through his mind when he was left with a big call to make at the end of Sunday's game.

"I was a long way from the incident, but [the handball is] clear," Laguardia said after the game. "It's the same referee as it was at the Mestalla. Now they're at peace, Barca and Iglesias Villanueva.

Luis Suarez scores the first goal for Barcelona as his team came back to beat Alaves.

"The images are clear. The referee clearly damaged our chances [of a draw]. He knew it was better to whistle in their favour. We knew that it was the referee from that famous moment. With the pressure of making another mistake against Barca, it's difficult to whistle.

"There have to be rules applied. The other day there was a penalty given against us, but not one in our favour here. It's clear that the referees are under more pressure against the big sides.

"He would have been unable to leave his house for a week [if he gave the penalty], but he's given a decision against Alaves and no one will speak about it tomorrow."

Midfielder Ibai Gomez, who scored the winner when Alaves won at Camp Nou last season, was similarly aggrieved by Villanueva's failure to point to the penalty spot.

"It's a clear penalty," Gomez told Movistar after the final whistle. "It's difficult to referee. Some things happen so quickly, but it annoys you when decisions go against you.

"We've almost played the perfect game. Barca are the better side, we know that, but we played well. You see the efficiency they have in front of goal. That's where the difference is.

"But you leave feeling impotent because that moment [Umtiti's handball] marks the game. I don't want to say it's all the referee's fault, it's difficult to officiate and they need help, but it hurts to lose like that."

Barca striker Luis Suarez thinks it would have been harsh to give the penalty and felt that he could have had one of his own in the first half, too.

"It could touch [Umtiti] on the hand, but these situations are always difficult [for referees]," the Uruguayan said after the game. "And in the first half there was a penalty on me [not given]."

Suarez scored the equaliser for Barca after John Guidetti had given Alaves the lead in the first half on the counter-attack. Lionel Messi completed the turnaround with a free kick five minutes from time.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.


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