Controversial review provokes inappropriate reaction from Barça coach

VAR messes up La Liga at the Bernabeu and Xavi shows his mean side

El entrenador español del Barcelona, Xavi, gesticula durante el partido de fútbol del Grupo H de la UEFA Champions League entre el Royal Antwerp FC y el FC Barcelona en el Bosuilstadion de Amberes, el 13 de diciembre de 2023 - PHOTO/AFP/JOHN THYS
Barcelona's Spanish coach Xavi - PHOTO/AFP/JOHN THYS

The arrival of VAR in Spain has never been a relief for referees. Since the dawn of time, the work of this collective has been used to justify winning and losing leagues, promotions, relegations and black hands of villaratos. Then came the Negrerira case and Barça's payments to the vice-president of the referees to finish setting fire to an unsustainable situation.   

Almeria arrived at the Bernabeu with better football than in the last few games and the intention of fighting for survival as far as they could. Ancelotti's men came out with their heads set on the defeat against Atlético de Madrid in the Copa del Rey and their legs too full. In the first minute they had already taken the lead through Ramazani and in the 43rd minute Edgar Gonzalez scored the goal of his life to make it 0-2 under the astonished gaze of Kepa.

Ancelotti stayed on the bench at half-time talking to Joselu, Brahim and Fran García to explain their roles in the second half. Rodrygo, Nacho and Mendy were the ones singled out, but the second 56 minutes (which is how long the second half lasted) had Hernández Maeso in the spotlight thanks to Hernández Hernández and the way he intervened from the VAR.   

Three controversial decisions, although only the first one left real doubts. The problem is that the penalty that Bellingham converted came after a series of fouls by the Whites' attackers that altered the course of the play. Rüdiger and Joselu jumped up against the defenders and that provoked a handball of the kind that is only called in this game. Arribas' goal was disallowed for a handball by Lopy on Bellingham. But then came Vinicius' goal, where the VAR played too much of a role. Who knows if the embarrassing Real Madrid Televisión videos ended up influencing Hernández Hernández who decided to get Hernández Maeso in trouble for reviewing a possible handball on the Brazilian's goal. The images are not clear and the on-field referee should have stood by his decision, but the way the VAR was called out predisposed him to give the goal as good.   

Then came Carvajal to make it 3-2 and lift the Bernabeu, who could see themselves handing the league to Girona and with Barca and Atletico back in the title race. The VAR caused the game to go to 111 minutes with Garitano sent off and he could not suppress his indignation at the refereeing decisions.   

Refereeing in Spain is at an all-time low. The Negreira case has not helped to calm down the scarf journalism. Real Madrid has decided to revive its hopeless TV channel by targeting referees. The CTA itself does not know how to handle an element that was supposed to facilitate its work. And then there is Xavi Hernández.   

Barcelona's Spanish coach Xavi - PHOTO/FILE

The Barça coach dedicated a part of his press conference after the game against Betis to descending into the sewers of football and adding to the cheap argument that Simeone once used. From "the league is dangerously prepared" for Real Madrid to win it to Xavi spitting out "what about the Bernabeu? It's going to be very difficult to win this league", dirtying a competition that his team is not going to win because of poor planning, the club's financial problems and a patchwork squad that is incapable of producing a single drop of decent football.   

Bad times for Spanish football. None of the players will give in because they no longer know any other way of acting than to vilify the referees to justify their defeats or the victories of their rivals. The RFEF knows that the stain on the refereeing collective is enormous and that there is little they can do to clean it up other than wait for time to pass. And, even so, Girona continue unstoppably to conquer the league.