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May 6, 2013

Leonardo: Officials holding back PSG

Leonardo has claimed there is a conspiracy to 'hold back' Paris Saint-Germain after the Ligue 1 leaders' charge to the title was slowed with Sunday's 1-1 draw at home to Valenciennes.

• Blog: Tempers boil over again

Marseille's triumph over Bastia 24 hours previously meant PSG already knew they could not mathematically clinch the title before they kicked off at the Parc des Princes. Now, Carlo Ancelotti's men have a seven-point advantage over OM with three games remaining - including next week's trip to Lyon - after a trying evening against their northern visitors.

After his side fell behind, PSG captain Thiago Silva was dismissed just before the break. Even Alex's 83rd-minute equaliser failed to calm Leonardo, 43, who insisted behind-the-scenes forces were at work, attempting to undermine PSG's bid for a first title in nearly 20 years.

"It went beyond all logic. It's annoying as we have four players suspended and get another red card. If it continues like this, we'll find ourselves with ten players suspended and no team," Leonardo said, referring to the trio banned following last weekend's win over Evian - David Beckham, Marco Verratti and Salvatore Sirigu - as well as Thiago Motta, suspended for a previous incident.

"They're trying to hold us back. With five players out, it's more difficult. We've got three games left and need a win."

Incensed by the red card shown to his fellow Brazilian, who made slight contact with referee Alexandre Castro when appealing for a free-kick and was immediately dismissed, Leonardo reportedly barged into Castro, 42, after the full-time whistle before being pulled away by PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

"Nothing happened. I only spoke to him. Everyone was speaking to everyone, me too. I didn't say anything in particular, but there's always emotion," Leonardo insisted to the press, before painting Castro as being unable to cope with such a high-profile match.

"You establish your authority through competence, not cards," he said. "He's a referee who's had ten games this season, and given out 48 yellows and five reds. Today was a calm game and there were seven yellow cards and one red. What would he have done in a tense match? I don't understand why a referee who's only taken charge of nine games is picked for such an important game."

Ancelotti, who gave Verratti a public dressing down after being sent off at Evian, proved much calmer than his sporting director, and admitted Thiago Silva, who had previously picked up just two bookings and committed a meagre 15 fouls this season, would not receive the same treatment as his Italy international team-mate.

"French referees are very strict," the Italian, whose team have by far the worst disciplinary record of any leader of Europe's top five championships with 69 yellows and nine reds, told the press. "Thiago Silva didn't deserve a red. I was angry with Verratti, but I can't be with Thiago. I don't know if we can appeal, but we're going to look at the possibilities.

"Perhaps there's some irritation and disquiet before the title among the players. They're also less clear-headed given their fatigue at the end of the season. But the referees are perhaps tired too."

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