Controversial ref sent home from World Cup makes noise again with card-filled performance in Barcelona draw

As a referee, you never want to become the story of the match, but that’s just what happened in the Derbi Barceloni between Barcelona and Espanyol on Saturday. The two teams drew 1-1 which sees Barcelona back level with Real Madrid atop La Liga but referee Antonio Mateu Lahouz gave out 14 bookings during the match, taking all of the headlines in what was a physical contest. It included a whopping three red cards, one of which was overturned due to a VAR review.

Does his name ring a bell? If you watched any of the FIFA World Cup, it surely has to. Lahouz is the same referee who handed out 17 yellow cards during the World Cup quarterfinal between Argentina and the Netherlands,which is an astonishing number. He has now given out 32 cards in his last two matches with one being rescinded. Some of the cards were warranted but after Barcelona conceded a penalty to Espanyol, that’s when when the game truly went off the rails. Jordi Alba was handed a yellow card during Espanyol’s celebrations which was quickly followed by a second yellow for dissent. That led to confusion and five yellow cards being shown in only three minutes due to Lahouz losing control of the game. 

Barcelona manager Xavi wasn’t pleased with what happened when it came to his team’s effort in the draw and Lahouz’s conduct in officiating. 

“Mateu controls and dominates the matches and today he has lost it. Today he handed out cards and I told him at the end, he must be the judge and for me the game got out of control, yes,” Xavi said after the match. “I can’t control the referee. What he has seen, what he has felt, what the players have told him. What am I going to say?”

After that match during the World Cup, Lahouz was sent home and Argentina keeper and Golden Glove winner Emiliano Martinez had some choice words to say.

“The ref was just giving everything for them. All of a sudden they got a good header, a good flick and then it turned upside down.” Martinez said after Argentina’s win. “Then the ref was giving everything for them. He gave 10 minutes [of stoppage time] for no reason. It was a free kick for them outside of the box like two or three times. He just wanted them to score that’s basically it, so hopefully, we don’t have that ref anymore. He’s useless.” 

Lionel Messi also added, “[FIFA] can’t put a referee like that for a game like this, with a game of so much importance where the ref isn’t at the level.”

Barcelona created enough chances to win the match but with almost the entire team on yellow cards, it’s quite tough to get things going. With Real Madrid winning their match against Valladolid via a late Karim Benzema double on Friday, Barcelona’s narrow two-point advantage in the league has evaporated. 

If the title is decided by two points or fewer, this is certainly a game that could be looked back on. It will be interesting to see if La Liga reviews Lahouz’s performance, but even if it results in an apology to the teams, that won’t make up for the dropped points and the lack of confidence teams will continue to have in him.

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