Xavi feels Barcelona denied 'very clear' penalty in Man Utd draw

By Sports Desk February 16, 2023

Barcelona head coach Xavi feels his side were denied a "very clear" penalty late on in their action-packed 2-2 draw with Manchester United.

The sides played out a thriller at Camp Nou on Thursday to leave their Europa League knockout play-off round tie in the balance heading into next week's return leg.

Marcos Alonso opened the scoring for Barca early in the second half, but United were in front nine minutes later through a Marcus Rashford strike and Jules Kounde's own goal.

Raphinha equalised for the hosts in rather fortuitous circumstances in the 76th minute, the winger's cross going right through without a touch, and Barca went all out for a winner.

A scramble in the box culminated in Casemiro hitting his own post, before Ansu Fati was brilliantly denied by David de Gea – the United keeper's sixth save of the game.

Amid the end-to-end drama in the closing stages, Xavi is adamant his side should have been awarded a spot-kick for a shot that struck Fred on the arm.

"For me, the penalty is very clear," he told Movistar+. "I went over to tell the referee that at the end. It was clear. That's my opinion and I know that won't change anything.

"The referee said the ball was too close to [Fred's] body, but for me it's not. It's a clear penalty."

Barcelona finished the game with an expected goals (xG) return of 1.26 compared to 2.13 for their opponents, suggesting the Red Devils did more to win the contest.

Raphinha's goal ultimately salvaged a draw for the LaLiga leaders, with the former Leeds United player having now been involved in five goals in his four games against United. 

He also played in the corner for Alonso's opener, meaning he has scored and assisted in the same game four times this term – the most of any LaLiga player in all competitions.

The Brazil international reacted angrily to being substituted for Ferran Torres soon after scoring, but head coach Xavi says that is entirely understandable. 

"I have to do it for the good of the team," Xavi said. "I perfectly understand the anger shown by players. I was also angry.

"He has come to apologise to me, but he didn't have to. We wanted to find a way to win the game and we almost did at the end."

Barcelona are now unbeaten in their past 16 matches, but one big negative for the Catalan giants was losing influential midfielder Pedri to a first-half injury.

The 20-year-old sustained muscle discomfort in the quadriceps of his right leg, which initial reports suggest will rule him out for up to a month – and thus next week's second leg.

Asked for an update on Pedri's injury, Xavi simply said: "He noticed some discomfort in the quadriceps. We'll have to see."

Gavi will also miss the return fixture at Old Trafford next Thursday after picking up a yellow card in the second half.

Despite the initial air of frustration, Xavi was happy with his side's performance against a United side that have now lost just once in 16 games since the World Cup break.

"It was a very even match. We played well against a great team," Xavi said. "We had to work hard. We had the feeling we could have scored a winning goal.

"Old Trafford will now decide it. We go to Manchester with the aim to advance."

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