Sergio Busquets claims a refereeing mistake, and not a hangover from previous poor performances, was behind Barcelona’s 1-0 Primera Division defeat at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday night.
With the game at 0-0 early in the second half, Barca attacker Neymar appeared to be running free behind the Athletic defence, until midfielder Ander Iturraspe pulled him down.
Asked on Canal Plus directly after the game if the Catalan club had been affected by having lost their first game of the season at Ajax a few days earlier, Busquets said an error by referee Juan Martinez Munuera had been much more of a determining factor.
“It had nothing to do with that,” Busquets said. “It was not a bad game, but if we do not take our chances and then the referee does not do his work… The incident with Neymar and Iturraspe would have changed the game, because he was free. For us it was a sending off. The referee got it wrong.”
Andres Iniesta -- whistled throughout by home fans who still think he got Fernando Amorebieta sent off in a game at San Mames in 2010 -- said in the mixed zone that the Barca camp should not get too down as the performance had not been that bad.
“We put in a good first half and we played well at times after the break, but the goal really shook us and although we really tried, we couldn't come back,” Iniesta said. “It was not about our attitude. After a loss all kinds of doubts are generated. We have things to correct but we should not see everything as bad.”
The World Cup winner, surprisingly taken off along with Xavi Hernandez when Barca were searching for an equaliser, suggested his team had been shocked to find themselves behind.
“Defeats always happen for a reason, but I don't think we can join this one with the game against Ajax. We had some good phases of play tonight, but we have to be more efficient. We had the game under control, but the goal really hurt us. San Mames is always a tough place to come to."
Blaugrana defender Javier Mascherano recalled that Barca still remain on top of the Primera Division standings -- ahead of Atletico Madrid on goal difference -- and said they now have to lift themselves up for Friday’s Copa del Rey last 32 first leg at Cartagena, as well as for the following weekend’s return to league action at home to Villarreal.
“Nobody likes to lose -- it hurts to be beaten -- but let’s not forget we are still leaders,” Mascherano said. “We have to win the games that are left this year, beginning with the matches against Cartagena and Villarreal.”