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Valencia rue refereeing decisions

Valencia striker Roberto Soldado and club president Manuel Llorente both slammed the performance of referee Cesar Muniz Fernandez and his assistants after their side's 2-0 Copa del Rey quarter-final first-leg loss to Real Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.

Madrid took a healthy first-leg lead through Karim Benzema's clinical strike and an Andres Guardado own-goal, but Valencia could afterwards lament three borderline offside decisions which had gone against them, as well as a Gonzalo Higuain handball during the second goal. Visiting manager Ernesto Valverde was sent to the stands for his protests after that incident, enraged as he had not been allowed to replace injured centre-half Victor Ruiz in time.

The Valencia camp claimed that comments this week from Madrid manager Jose Mourinho and winger Angel Di Maria about previous refereeing decisions had pressurised the officials into favouring the home side.

"Real Madrid put a lot of pressure all week on the referee," Soldado said. "He was not able to handle it and his fear affected us a lot. He was not up to the game at any moment. There are games when you benefit, others when it goes against you. On the pitch, as difficult as it is, you could see there was no offside in all three of my runs. There was also a penalty on Jonas and a handball by (Ricardo) Carvalho."

When reminded of a similar mistaken offside call he had suffered during Valencia's 1-1 La Liga draw with Madrid at the Bernabeu in August, the Spain international - booked by Muniz Fernandez for complaining during the game - suggested smaller teams were more likely to suffer from refereeing mistakes.

"This is like deja vu, I have been through it before," Soldado said "But we must think about turning the tie around. We feel powerless and indignant because (the officials) are afraid of damaging a big team, and it should not be like that. In the end there is no use in protesting because on top of everything they punish you."

Llorente was also heavily critical of the officials, saying his side never get fair treatment when they come to Madrid.

"It always happens here, when it is not the referees, it is the referees," Llorente told reporters. "I am outraged, like all the fans. I am very proud, we played a great game, we are improving, but you cannot fight against all factors."

Los Che manager Valverde was relatively calmer after the game, acknowledging that referees had a difficult job.

"When you see it on the TV everything is easier," Valverde said. "On the field it is a bit more difficult. I do not normally protest much, but I wanted to make a change as I had an injured player. In the end we were not able to make the change, and they scored. I complained to the linesman, and the referee sent me off. It was out of frustration, but that does not justify what I did."

Valverde said he was more concerned about the things Valencia could control, especially the chances missed during the game, when attacker Jonas had twice missed simple close-range opportunities and Ruiz headed wide of an open goal.

"I am more pained about the result," he said. "Losing 2-0 in a game, that although at the end Madrid had some very clear chances to score, the result is excessive for us. We could have scored one goal or more, we deserved that. We had the chances, that is what pains me, the referee we cannot control."

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