Barcelona have launched an appeal against the two-match touchline ban handed to Ronald Koeman following his dismissal during the shock 2-1 LaLiga loss to Granada.

Koeman was shown a red card for comments he supposedly made to the fourth official not long after Granada had drawn level at Camp Nou on Thursday.

The Dutchman then watched on from the stands as the home side conceded again in the 79th minute, substitute Jorge Molina heading home to provide a further twist in the title race.

"I don't understand why they have sent me off. They [said I] have disrespected the fourth official," Koeman said after Thursday's match, according to Marca.

"I don't understand the red. According to the delegate, it was a lack of respect for the fourth official. I haven't said anything. I haven't insulted him or anything. But hey, if the fourth official wants to be the star of the night ... thank you."

Barcelona had appeared set to take over at the top of the table but now sit two points behind LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid with five games remaining.

One of those matches sees Barca host Atleti on May 8, which will be covered by Koeman's suspension unless his appeal is successful. The other fixture will be Sunday's trip to Valencia.

In confirming the appeal, the club referenced that their head coach had not previously been sent off since taking charge.

Meanwhile, Barca have extended Oscar Mingueza's contract.

The defender, who made his first-team debut in a Champions League fixture against Dynamo Kiev in November, is now tied down until June 2023 with a release clause of €100million.

"It's a dream come true. I've been working for many years for this objective, to sign a contract with the first team," Mingueza said in an official club interview.

"I'm really happy, really proud to have this chance after all the support that I have received."

Mingueza has made 36 appearances in all competitions this season since his promotion from the B team.  

Ronald Koeman suggested the fourth official perhaps wanted to be "the star of the night" after the Barcelona boss was set off in Thursday's damaging 2-1 defeat to Granada.

Talisman Lionel Messi's 23rd-minute goal appeared to have Barca on track towards a fifth straight home win and three points that would have seen them leapfrog rivals Real Madrid and table-toppers Atletico Madrid in LaLiga.

However, Darwin Machis levelled and Koeman was sent to the stands prior to Jorge Molina heading home the winner 11 minutes from time to leave Barca two points off the pace with five games to play.

Koeman insisted he did not say anything insulting to the official and hinted he may challenge the decision.

"I don't understand why they have sent me off. They [said I] have disrespected the fourth official," he said in quotes reported by Marca.

"I don't understand the red. According to the delegate, it was a lack of respect for the fourth official. 

"I haven't said anything. I haven't insulted him or anything. But hey, if the fourth official wants to be the star of the night ... thank you.

"Let's see what the record says. If the record says something that I haven't said, I'll have to do something."

Koeman accepted his team made errors in a defeat few would have seen coming but the Dutchman is refusing to lose belief in a thrilling title tussle.

"We lost focus in the second half and made mistakes in defence," he added.

"We must accept today's defeat. It is reality. We had opportunities to win, but okay we have five games to go. Each one will have its difficulties. We have to prepare well for next Sunday.

"There are still possibilities. We have to accept defeat, analyse it and prepare for this tournament.

"I think we have tried to continue. We have not created many opportunities after their goals. They have closed down well and we could not create more.

"Seeing the two goals, we leave spaces where we have to close them. We have not been well defensively.

"It is a hard blow to stop depending on us. We are disappointed. We have five games to be champions. For us it is the same as for others."

Barcelona missed the chance to move top of LaLiga after suffering a shock 2-1 loss to Granada at Camp Nou on Thursday.

Lionel Messi’s 23rd-minute goal appeared to have Barca on course for a fifth straight home win, a result good enough to see them leapfrog both rivals Real Madrid and long-time leaders Atletico in the table.

However, Granada – who had failed to even manage a draw in any of their previous 25 league visits to their Catalan opponents – turned the game around to further change the outlook in the title race.

Darwin Machis equalised before Barca boss Ronald Koeman was shown a red card, meaning the Dutchman had to watch on from the stands as Jorge Molina was afforded time and space to head in a 79th-minute winner.

The dramatic turnaround had never appeared on the cards, yet Barcelona allowed their opponents to score with their only two attempts on target to cause a huge upset.

Messi had broken the deadlock after linking up with Antoine Griezmann, the Frenchman timing his delayed return pass perfectly to allow his team-mate to fizz a low, left-footed shot beyond goalkeeper Aaron Escandell and into the far corner of the net.

However, Messi was not quite so clinical with another one-on-one opportunity later in the first half and Griezmann himself failed to capitalise when presented with a clear sight of goal soon after the break, firing well wide with his right foot.

Sergi Roberto also sent a volley off target as Barca struggled to make their dominance tell – and Granada made them pay to clinch a result that will undoubtedly be celebrated in the Spanish capital.

Oscar Mingueza's failure to cut out a throughball allowed Machis to run clear and slot the ball beyond the advancing Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while Barca's goalkeeper had no chance when Molina ghosted into the penalty area to convert Adrian Marin's cross.

Ronald Koeman says he has "no interest" in further speculation over Lionel Messi's future as Barcelona battle for the LaLiga title.

According to TNT Sports, Paris Saint-Germain are preparing an "unbeatable" contract offer to try and lure Messi to the French capital.

Messi's contract expires at the end of June, so the Barca captain could walk away from Camp Nou as a free agent.

The mercurial Argentina forward sensationally handed in a transfer request last August before agreeing to remain with the Catalan giants for the 2020-21 season.

Koeman reiterated his desire for Messi to sign a new deal, but for the time being the focus is on securing a win over Granada on Thursday that would move Barca top of the table.

The Barca boss said in a press conference on Wednesday: "I am not interested in what has come out because I do not know if it is true and because I hope he continues with us.

"I have said several times that it has to end here, but it is a decision that he has to make."

Atletico Madrid's defeat at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday has given Barca the chance to take a one-point lead at the summit by beating eighth-placed Granada at Camp Nou.

Koeman does not see his side as favourites to be crowned champions as his side prepare to try and leapfrog Real Madrid and Atleti.

The former Netherlands defender said: "The team that goes first is the favourite and we are not the first."

Koeman says there is no chance Barca will get ahead of themselves in their quest to dethrone Real Madrid with six games to play.

"I have not seen the players thinking that the job is done," he added. "Now we may be the favourite according to many people, but we do not think that way. We know the difficulty of winning the games because all the rivals play for something.

"I've learned that you have to go game by game. You don't have to go crazy for the possibility that exists if you win. The important thing is tomorrow and being prepared for a difficult game."

Ronald Koeman promised Barcelona would "go with everything we have" to secure the LaLiga title on an evening when Atletico Madrid faltered again.

The trophy, and a domestic double, looked unlikely prospects as Barcelona stumbled through the opening months of the season.

Yet they will head into May with the Copa del Rey locked away in the trophy room and league glory could follow.

Long-time leaders Atletico have struggled without former Barcelona frontman Luis Suarez recently, and although he came off the bench in Sunday's clash with Athletic Bilbao, Diego Simeone's wobbling side suffered a 2-1 defeat.

It means that although Atletico still hold a two-point lead at the top, Barcelona and Real Madrid are the closest chasing sides, level on 71 points. Importantly, Barca have a game in hand over both their rivals.

The Camp Nou club's 2-1 win over Villarreal strengthened their championship case, with Real Madrid only able to draw 0-0 with Real Betis on Saturday.

Asked about the prospect of a league and cup double, Koeman said on Sunday: "I have never said that it is impossible, but when you have a distance of points and you are behind, you have to go game by game.

"We're in there. But the best way to win this league is to go game by game."

Speaking after Barcelona's win but before Atletico fell to their jolting defeat, Koeman praised his side, who have now gathered 46 points from a possible 51 since the turn of the year in LaLiga.

Of their last 24 clashes with Villarreal in LaLiga, Barca have won 18 times and drawn the other six, a staggeringly good record against one of Spain's better club sides.

"It is closer, but I don't know if it is very close," Koeman said of the title. "We have a track record of many victories. And what the team are doing is something very big, trying to win LaLiga as well.

"We know that if we win all six games we will be champions. We are going to go with everything we have to try to win LaLiga."

Atletico have lost two of their last five LaLiga games, showing fallibility at just the wrong time. They had previously lost just two of 44 league matches, including a strong finish to last season.

A Camp Nou clash between Atletico and Barcelona on May 8 is the standout fixture of the title run-in, and momentum can quickly turn.

Before that, Barca have games against Granada on Thursday and at Valencia on Sunday.

Koeman said it is "difficult to be 100 per cent" when games are coming so thick and fast.

But having come so far, making up so much ground when at one point qualifying for the Champions League looked to be in doubt, Barcelona are determined not to slow down.

As goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen put it on Instagram: "6 finals to go. We must be ready for Thursday."

Antoine Griezmann is proud to be playing his part in Barcelona's LaLiga title push, even if it means continuing to play out of position.

The France international scored twice to earn Barca a 2-1 comeback win away at Villarreal on Sunday after Samuel Chukwueze opened the scoring at Estadio de la Ceramica.

He has 13 goals and nine assists in all competitions in 2021 - only team-mate Lionel Messi (32) and Villarreal's Gerard Moreno (24) have been involved in more among LaLiga players.

Griezmann was once again paired with Messi up top against Villarreal, with Frenkie de Jong and Pedri positioned just behind in a 3-5-2 formation now favoured by Ronald Koeman.

While the 30-year-old was more accustomed to being the focal point in attack during his Atletico Madrid days, he is happy to put the team first in Barcelona's quest for more silverware.

"I try to be there, among the opposition centre-backs," he told LaLiga TV. "I need to make space and create room for my team-mates.

"It's not my natural position, but I'm proud to be at Barcelona and play with these team-mates. Sometimes I'm asked to mark, other times I lead, but I always work for the team."

Griezmann has now scored in three successive matches, his latest brace helping Barca to close the gap on league leaders and former side Atletico to two points.

Barca have taken 46 points from the 51 on offer this calendar year, compared to 38 points in one game fewer for Atletico ahead of their trip to Athletic Bilbao later on Sunday.

The two sides are scheduled to meet at Camp Nou on May 8 and Griezmann acknowledged Barca's fate is in their own hands with six matches to go. 

"We all want to win LaLiga. There are four teams, including Sevilla, that are fighting for it," he said. "We have to try to win every game - that is the only way to be champions.

"It will not be ease but we have the group of players needed to achieve it.

"Atletico are having an incredible season. We are close behind them and trying our best to be champions. We have it in our hands. We just need to win all the games we have."

All five of Barca's shot on target against Villarreal were in the first half, with Frenkie de Jong being denied by a fine Sergio Asenjo save with the game scoreless.

De Jong also missed from a one-on-one late on after the hosts had Manu Trigueros sent off for a challenge on Messi, but the Dutchman impressed compatriot Koeman with his overall play.

"For me, this De Jong is better than the Netherlands and Ajax version," he said at his post-match news conference. "He attacks, defends and is a very important player for this team."

Barcelona, who won their first piece of silverware of the Koeman era with victory over Athletic Bilbao in last week's Copa del Rey final, have a four-day rest before facing Granada in their next LaLiga outing.

Koeman only made one change to his starting line-up for the Villarreal match and does not believe fatigue is a major issue for his side.

"It is more about mentality than freshness," he said. "We have two games this week. The players are use to that.

"Sometimes you have to suffer. We faced a good opponent and did not panic when they scored.

"This is a big step towards the title, as is every victory. Every match is difficult, but we reacted well and defended well, even if we were tired in the final stages."

Ronald Koeman expects to remain in charge at Barcelona for next season as his team launch a final assault on the LaLiga crown.

The Dutchman was brought in on a two-year contract last August to replace Quique Setien, amid high speculation that presidential elections could mean his reign would last only one season.

There has been huge upheaval at Barcelona since, with rising debt, the resignation of a president, a delayed election that was won by Joan Laporta, and recent talk of a breakaway Super League proving unwelcome distractions.

Amid the off-field turbulence, Koeman has stayed admirably calm, and his team could finish the season with a league and cup double, having already won the Copa del Rey.

They came into this weekend trailing leaders Atletico Madrid by five points, but with a game in hand. Real Madrid, perched between Atletico and Barcelona, were in action on Saturday evening. Fourth-placed Sevilla, the outsiders of the four title contenders, play Granada on Sunday.

Barcelona are handily placed, in form and with a home game against Atletico to come, and if Koeman can deliver a title win he would seem unsackable.

He feels Laporta has his back, saying: "The president has shown me his support and trust since the first day, and until he says the opposite, I believe that.

"At the moment, I see myself as a head coach [in Barcelona] for next season. And I also have a contract. If it is not like that, we have to talk."

On Sunday, Barcelona take on a Villarreal side who sit seventh and have a Europa League semi-final first leg against Arsenal coming up on Thursday.

The future of Lionel Messi has also been a season-long talking point, with the club captain due to reach the end of his contract at the end of the campaign.

However, Koeman is not interested in talking about anything other than his team's targets, and made that point when asked about the Super League.

"We have already talked a lot about the Super League, now there are more important things than talking about UEFA, sanctions or threats," he said. "We have to be aware of the calendar that we have left."

Remarkably, Barcelona have taken 43 points from a possible 48 in LaLiga since the turn of the year, soaring into the title picture.

They have a terrific record against Villarreal too, winning 17 and drawing six of their last 23 league meetings against the Valencian side.

Messi has scored 15 goals in his 23 games against Villarreal in LaLiga, more than any other LaLiga player has managed against Barcelona's Sunday opponents.

Former Everton and Netherlands boss Koeman said Ousmane Dembele is a contender to start Sunday's game, and stressed he could not be sure that injured teenage forward Ansu Fati would play again this season.

Dembele was absent through injury for the 5-2 win over Getafe on Thursday, but Koeman said of the French forward: "He is a very important player for us, because he is a different player from the rest playing in attack, a deep player, able to play one-against-one, with dribbles, shooting with both feet.

"He is very important because he gave us many things this season."

Koeman sees Villarreal as a major threat, and suggested the home team will not be distracted by their upcoming assignment in Europe.

"They are a team that play football very well, with top quality people," Koeman said. "They are proving in Europe to be a strong team.

"They have until Thursday to prepare for the next game. They are also fighting for UEFA positions, For them it is an important game and for us, too. It is an interesting game."

Ronald Koeman does not believe Barcelona's involvement in the collapsed European Super League will have an impact on the title run-in in LaLiga.

Barca were among 12 elite clubs - three of them from Spain - to sign up for the controversial new continental competition over the weekend.

But by Tuesday night, the tournament - a rival to the Champions League - had collapsed after England's 'big six' pulled out and others followed.

The Blaugrana were said to be considering their position ahead of the first U-turn from Manchester City, although no announcement of the Catalan club's withdrawal had followed at Camp Nou by Wednesday when Koeman faced the media.

The head coach was speaking ahead of Thursday's home game against Getafe.

Barca head into the midweek round of fixtures third in LaLiga, five points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and two shy of Real Madrid but with a game in hand over both.

Although Atleti and Madrid were each also part of the Super League plans, it was put to Koeman that his players might be distracted in their pursuit of the championship.

"I don't agree," he replied. "Players want to win titles, I have no doubt about my players. We're going to be fine at tomorrow's game."

Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli - a key Super League figure - has accepted defeat in their breakaway bid, but Koeman was reluctant to comment on Barca's status as "no one knows what can happen".

"I spoke to the president yesterday and he explained the club's position," Koeman said.

"There's been so much movement that it's best not to have an opinion. No one knows what can happen and we have to wait. I want what's best for the club.

"I'm not the spokesman, it's the president. My job is to prepare the game. There is so much movement with this topic that we have to wait for how this ends.

"I'm not surprised. We want what's best for the club. If there's anyone who needs to talk about this, it's clearly the president.

"I don't know if they asked the players; I'm not interested. We're playing a game tomorrow."

Even those coaches critical of the Super League - like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola - have highlighted issues with UEFA, which is pressing ahead with its own expanded Champions League.

Koeman said: "The number of matches is incredible. [The players] have had to play a lot of competitions.

"Everyone is talking about the Super League, the Champions League... but UEFA is not heeding players about the number of matches. All they care about is money.

"In LaLiga, anyway, tomorrow we play at 22:00 [local time]. We have to protect the players."

Getafe won 1-0 in the reverse fixture earlier this season but have never done the double over Barca, who have since turned their season around.

Prior to their Clasico defeat last time out in LaLiga, Koeman's side were unbeaten in 19 in the competition. An undefeated run at home stretches back 12 games.

Barca have scored 69 times in the league, their joint-lowest tally through 31 games in the past 13 seasons but also the highest mark in the league this term. Lionel Messi (23) alone has netted more goals than Getafe.

The Blaugrana also bounced back from the loss in Madrid by winning 4-0 against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday.

"The image of the team the other day in the final was very good, the attitude and the level of play," Koeman added.

"It's not just a title. We've been improving things for a while, and I think, according to a lot of people, they're happy.

"We're working well, but in a club it depends on the results. What we're doing is a big thing."

Ronald Koeman has revelled in his first title as Barcelona head coach but set his sights on clinching the LaLiga crown.

Barcelona lifted the Copa del Rey with a 4-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in Saturday's final, marking the Dutchman's first title since taking over at Camp Nou in August.

The Catalans lost the Supercopa final to Bilbao in January and exited the Champions League in the last-16 to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca are firmly in contention in the league, sitting third, two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid in a three-horse race with Real Madrid too.

"To win a title is important for me," Koeman said. "Despite the changes at the club and the young players, at Barca you have to always fight for trophies.

"We have the first one and now we are going to fight to the last game in La Liga."

Saturday's victory was earned with four second-half goals, with Antoine Grizemann breaking the deadlock on the hour mark.

Frenkie de Jong doubled their advantage on 63 minutes, before a Lionel Messi rounded out an emphatic win which Koeman said they deserved.

"A result like this is not normal, but we deserved the cup," Koeman said.

"It took us a bit to score, but we had chances. Our possession has been good and after 1-0 we have dominated the game with great football in every way."

The 58-year-old former Netherlands coach also heaped praise on De Jong and Messi for their leading role.

"De Jong and Messi are great players: Leo has been proving for so many years that he is the best in the world, he has returned to being effective, but we must also highlight Frenkie and the whole team," Koeman said.

"We have been at an extraordinary level. We deserve this cup."

Lionel Messi hailed the special achievement of captaining Barcelona to another trophy as president Joan Laporta backed the superstar forward to sign a new deal with the club.

The 33-year-old scored twice in Saturday's 4-0 Copa del Rey final victory over Athletic Bilbao after Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong had given Barca a two-goal lead.

With that double, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner made it a record nine goals in 10 appearances in the final of the competition to overtake Athletic great Telmo Zarra.

He has now scored the fourth most goals ever in the competition (56), meanwhile, behind Guillermo Gorostiza (64), Jose Samitier (69) and Zarra (81).

Messi's future remains a hot topic of debate with his contract due to expire at the end of the season, potentially making this seventh Copa triumph his last for the Catalan giants.

Barca were made to wait until the hour mark to find a way past opposition goalkeeper Unai Simon, but Messi is glad his side's patient approach to breaking down Athletic paid off.

"It's nice to lift a title. It's a very happy day for this group," Messi said. "It is very special to be the captain of this club. It is a very special cup for me to lift.

"We knew Athletic played this way, with a solid 4-4-2. We had patience with the ball and created spaces. We moved a lot in the first half and I think they fell in the second half.

"Not being able to celebrate it with our people, it's a shame. The situation is what we have to live in. The cups are always special and people enjoy them a lot."

Barca have enjoyed an upturn in form since the turn of the year and are two points off top spot in LaLiga, despite defeat to Real Madrid in last week's Clasico.

"It was difficult for us in the first half of the year. We lost a lot of silly points," Messi added. 

"Then we became strong, very good, and we got into the title fight. Last week, unfortunately, we couldn't get a good result from the Clasico."

Messi, who has now hit 30 or more goals for Barca in 13 successive seasons, has been touted as a possible target for Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

However, recently elected club president Laporta remains confident that the Argentina international can be tempted to stay at Camp Nou beyond the end of this season.

"Leo is the best in the world, he is deeply rooted in the club," Laporta said. "I am convinced that he wants to stay and we will do everything in our power to make him stay.

"Today we have seen that he is supported by a great team."

The victory at Estadio Olimpico de la Cartuja marked the first piece of silverware won by Koeman since being appointed by Barcelona last August.

And like Laporta, Koeman is hopeful Barca's improved performances in 2021 will be enough to persuade Messi to put pen to paper on fresh terms.

"I hope it is not the last Messi's cup match with us, we want him to continue with us," Koeman said at his post-match news conference.

"You never know if it has been Leo's last final because it is he who must decide. As the president says, we will do our best to make him stay. 

"He has proven, once again, to be the best in the world. With enormous effectiveness, he has led the team."

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona turned on the style in the second half to beat Athletic Bilbao 4-0 in Saturday's Copa del Rey final and win their first silverware under Ronald Koeman.

Barca were beaten 3-2 by Athletic in January's Supercopa de Espana final and they were kept at bay by the Basque club for an hour in this latest encounter at Estadio Olimpico de la Cartuja.

But Frenkie de Jong set up Antoine Griezmann for the crucial breakthrough goal and added the second himself three minutes later, before Messi took over with a couple of quickfire strikes as Barca made it a record-extending 31st Copa del Rey triumph.

It means yet more heartbreak for Athletic, though, after they were beaten 1-0 by Real Sociedad in the delayed 2019-20 final two weeks ago.

A bemused Ronald Koeman has described the constant speculation over his future as Barcelona head coach as "a little bit strange". 

It has been a tumultuous debut season for the former Netherlands boss, who arrived at Camp Nou on a two-year contract in August. 

First up, he had to manage the fallout from Lionel Messi's ultimately unsuccessful transfer request ahead of the 2020-21 campaign. 

A failure to get past the last-16 stage in the Champions League was a major disappointment, but a superb recent run in LaLiga has put them into title contention. 

They did suffer a first defeat since early December against Real Madrid in El Clasico last weekend, but they are just two points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid with eight games remaining. 

Up next is Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday and, speaking at a pre-match media conference, a clearly exasperated Koeman did not hold back when asked if failure to secure the trophy would result in his dismissal. 

"If you would like to hear my opinion about this, it's a little bit strange that I need to answer questions like this," he told reporters. 

"We had a run of 19 games without losing, we lose one match and I need to talk about my future. 

"Maybe I need to accept this, but I don't agree. You have to do your job and talk to people in the club. I have one more year of my contract. 

"I know before the game what will happen if we win and if we don't win. I have to accept it. I took this job as a coach and I know there's a big pressure and I can handle that. Sometimes it's a little bit strange."

Despite speculation that Koeman may not start next season as Barca boss, the club's new president Joan Laporta did offer public support to Koeman over his future after his victory in last month's election. 

Asked if he needs Laporta's backing again following the defeat to Madrid, Koeman said: "I don't need this. We have spoken and he has shown me his confidence.

"If someone writes that the coach's future is at risk, the president doesn't have to respond to that by showing confidence.

"I'm the first to know what Laporta thinks. At this club you need to win trophies, and despite the changes and the economic situation at the club, we're here at a final and we want to win it; speculation isn't important."

This will be the fourth meeting between the sides this season, with Barca winning both LaLiga clashes and Athletic securing a dramatic 3-2 triumph in the Supercopa de Espana in January. 

Ronald Koeman insisted Barcelona remain upbeat and optimistic in their pursuit of the LaLiga title, despite suffering Clasico pain at the hands of Real Madrid.

Barca left the Spanish capital emptyhanded after Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos guided defending champions Madrid to a 2-1 win on Saturday.

Oscar Mingueza set up a dramatic final half-hour with his second goal of the season for Barca, while Madrid midfielder Casemiro was sent off in the 90th minute.

But Madrid held on at a sodden Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium to seal a third consecutive win against Barca in all competitions for the first time since 1978 as they provisionally moved top of the table, with Atletico Madrid in action on Sunday.

Barca are third and a point off the pace, though they could fall four points adrift if Atletico beat Real Betis.

"Of course we're still upbeat and optimistic because we've produced a serious performance," Barca head coach Koeman told reporters. "We are fighting.

"We lost a match against a team who are fighting to win the league but there are nine matches and all the matches are important for the three best teams.

"It's difficult for all three of us. We will come back, we will fight until the last match."

Barca attempted 12 shots in total in the second half, three of those on target, and nearly snatched a point when Ilaix Moriba struck the crossbar in the 94th minute.

But, Koeman became the first Barcelona coach to lose his first two LaLiga games against Madrid since Joaquim Rife in 1980 (also the first two).

Koeman could not hide his frustration post-match, having felt his side should have had a penalty when substitute Martin Braithwaite went down in the box under pressure from Ferland Mendy.

The former Netherlands boss said: "I'm not the only person who's upset about the decision, or lack of decision.

"The players feel disappointed because of this decision by the referee to not give the penalty and there's players who have been playing for years for Barcelona, so I know. But once again not all decisions were right.

"You should ask the players but I would like to include myself. We know that we've played a good match football wise, the first part, the first half, ok, we were not up to our standards. Real Madrid defended very well in the first half.

"There's no [league] match next week and the title [Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao] is at stake. We have a week to prepare for a difficult match so we'll carry on and we are strong."

Lionel Messi, meanwhile, failed to score in seven consecutive Clasicos in all competitions for the first time in his career.

Ronald Koeman insisted Barcelona were denied a "clear penalty" in their 2-1 loss to Real Madrid as he hit out at the officiating in Saturday's dramatic El Clasico.

Barca fell to a third consecutive defeat to bitter rivals Madrid in all competitions for the first time since 1978 as they missed out on the chance to move top of LaLiga.

Oscar Mingueza set up a thrilling final half-hour at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano when prodding in to halve the deficit following first-half strikes from Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos. 

The visitors attempted 12 shots in total in the second half, three of those on target, and nearly snatched a point when Ilaix Moriba struck the crossbar in the 94th minute.

However, Koeman felt his side should have had a penalty when fellow substitute Martin Braithwaite went down in the box under pressure from Ferland Mendy.

And the Dutchman also questioned why more time was not added on at the end as a portion of the four allotted minutes was taken up by the officials resolving a technical issue.
 
"If you're a Barca fan or a Barca player, you're very unhappy with the result because I think there were two clear decisions that the referee didn't make that would have changed the game," he told LaLiga TV.

"I think we weren't good at all in the first 45. We weren't good in attack and we weren't good in defence.

"In the second half we improved but I only ask for a bit better when making key decisions because they are decisions that could have cost us the game and eventually they did.

"I think the added time as well was four minutes and it should have been added on. 

"He only added two minutes because of the issue with his microphone and there were quite a few more stoppages, also with the possible penalty towards the end. Once again, we have to accept it and shut up."

Defeat for Barca was their first in 20 league games since early December and saw them drop to third in LaLiga, a point behind Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, the latter of whom play their game in hand against Real Betis on Sunday.

When asked by reporter Ricardo Sierra if the two decisions that went against his side were defining moments, Koeman said: "Yes, of course. 

"The issue with the referee's microphone is a different issue completely. Obviously there were many things on the pitch that affected the result overall

"But I do think we should have gotten a clear penalty towards the end and I don't know why it wasn't reviewed by VAR.

"The linesman is there, he should assist with the decision. Everyone probably thinks it's a penalty. Do you think it's a penalty?"

Sierra failed to respond to Koeman's question, prompting the Barca boss to cut short the interview.

With this defeat, Koeman is the first Barcelona coach to lose his first two LaLiga games against Madrid since Joaquim Rife in 1980 (also the first two).

At half-time in Saturday's Clasico, Barcelona had out-passed Real Madrid by 390 to 172 and enjoyed 69 per cent of the possession. A fat lot of good it did them.

Madrid were 2-0 up having had more shots on goal, with eight to Barca's six and more on target (3-1). Federico Valverde had also hit the post as things threatened to get truly ugly for the Blaugrana.

Ronald Koeman has seen a remarkable turnaround since the new year, with Barca transformed from also-rans to many people's title favourites heading into this 2-1 defeat to their bitter rivals.

But against elite opponents, as in painful reverses earlier this season at the hands of Madrid, Atletico, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, they again came up short. For that, their coach must take his share of the blame.

During a prior run of 13 wins and one draw in LaLiga in 2021, Koeman frequently deployed a 3-4-2-1 formation and the result was some swashbuckling performances, most notably a 6-1 routing of Real Sociedad before last month's international break.

This week's last-gasp 1-0 victory against Real Valladolid was far more laboured and Koeman blinked. Antoine Griezmann, having formed a free-flowing forward trident with Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele, was consigned to the bench at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

Dembele was the match-winning hero against Valladolid but here cut an isolated figure as a lone striker, with Messi dropping deeper and deeper into midfield, trying to make something – anything – happen.

For all their numbers in the middle, Barcelona could not turn their possession into clear chances, nor could their apparent control prevent them from being eviscerated time and again on the break.

Karim Benzema's backheel finish for the opener was of the highest class, but Barca looked clueless as the white shirts rushed towards them.

Perhaps mindful of his poor record in big games this season, Koeman abandoned his successful formula for an approach that left Barca painfully between two stools.

 

Messi audaciously shot directly from a corner just before half-time, outfoxing Thibaut Courtois with vicious dip to hit the post. It was the latest of countless demonstrations of his genius in this fixture, but it was also a shocking indictment of Barca's overall play that it felt like a legitimate ploy.

The enduring and repeated image of the first period was Oscar Mingueza sprinting back towards his own goal wearing an anguished look as the effervescent Vinicius Junior showed him a clean pair of heels. Madrid's Brazilian forward enjoyed a career-best outing against Liverpool this week and was in no mood for the fun to stop.

Mingueza tired of that torment and took himself off to the Madrid box in the 60th minute to shin one in after Griezmann – on at half-time – dummied a cross from Jordi Alba, the full-back who was all at sea on the first goal before failing to head Toni Kroos' deflected free-kick off the line

Having made defenders look silly earlier on, it was Vinicius' turn to revert to slapstick as he broke clear with a chance to seal the points, only to botch a pass to Benzema where the idea was bad and the execution was worse.

To add to a mounting sense of chaos in torrential rain, Zinedine Zidane started taking off all his best players with an eye on Anfield.

The concluding moments were an encapsulation of this undulating LaLiga title race – hard to predict, full of errors and utterly captivating. Martin Braithwaite had a soft penalty appeal rejected amid great fury, Casemiro clumped into Mingueza and his perpetual mayhem to earn a second yellow card.

Top since November, Atletico Madrid will go back above their neighbours at the summit if they beat Eibar on Sunday. All three heavyweights will still fancy their chances, including Barca on account of their form leading into this weekend.

That is why this felt like such a missed opportunity for Koeman. His team have been the best in the country since January but he decided not to be bold when the stakes were highest.

For all the bridges built with a distant fanbase, turbulent boardroom and a star player whose future remains in the balance, this was a damaging backwards step.

And what of Messi? As things stand, his last act in this eternal rivalry will be delivering a free-kick for Illaix Moriba to hit the crossbar before a roving Marc-Andre ter Stegen hacked away at the rebound and booted the ball up Trincao's backside.

Perhaps he'll hang around after all.

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