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Mar 24, 2014

Xavi dismisses Ronaldo claims of bias

ESPN FC's Joao Castelo-Branco and Martin Ainstein believe that the Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo battle was the key to Barcelona's El Clasico victory.

Xavi Hernandez has rejected claims by Cristiano Ronaldo that a biased refereeing performance was behind Barcelona's 4-3 win against Real Madrid in La Liga on Sunday evening.

• Ledwith: Barcelona still alive in title chase
• Hunter: Food for thought following fabulous Clasico
• Marcotti: Messi inspired Barcelona victory

Referee Alberto Undiano Malenco awarded three penalties in the game at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu -- one to Madrid and two to Barcelona -- with Lionel Messi scoring a hat trick as Barca won the thriller and moved back to within a point of Madrid at the top of the table.

Ronaldo complained to the referee after the game, accusing him of being afraid and suggesting some unspecified forces had wanted Barca to remain in the title race.

But Xavi told El Larguero that such comments were mistaken, and it was Barcelona's better football which won the game.

“I believe he has spoken too soon,” Xavi said. “I have not seen the replays, but I believe the referee was fair. They told me later that the penalty [which Ronaldo won] by Alves is outside, and we practically did not even protest. I would have whistled what Undiano whistled, that’s the truth. I saw clear penalties. We need to focus on the analysis that Barcelona were superior to Madrid, played better and the result is there.”

Ronaldo was not the only Madrid player to leave the Bernabeu fuming, with Sergio Ramos also telling reporters in the mixed zone that "somebody" had wanted Madrid to lose and the referee had not been good enough for a game like this.

“For the good of football, and for the good for Real Madrid, I hope that Undiano does not whistle any more of our games for the rest of the season,” Ramos said. “Of course the referee decided the game. There were vital moments  -- a handball by Pique in a Cristiano free kick which should have been a penalty and 3-1. Things happened in the Camp Nou and again here. There are referees who are good enough and others who are not. It is clear that when you are the best team in the world there is envy in some places. We at Real Madrid suffer from that and must fight against it. Even though there are some things against which you cannot fight.”

Ramos, who had been shown a record 19th club red card for a professional foul on Neymar which led to Messi’s first penalty, said first that the Brazilian had been offside and then that there had been no foul.

“In the first place Neymar was offside,” the Andalucian said. “Then I put the brakes on because I preferred not to touch him, but Neymar was looking for contact with me. But I did not touch him. It is neither a penalty nor a sending off.”

Barca boss Gerardo Martino saw it differently, and insisted that it was deserving of a penalty.

He said: “The most clear one to me was the penalty of Ramos on Neymar. There could be no debate about that. The others I was very far away from.”

And Martino was delighted with the Brazilian's contribution, adding: “He knows how to play in difficult matches, at 21 years of age he's seen it all and he's won a lot.”

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti preferred to play down any controversy in his post-game comments.

“I told the players that in general it was a good match, they played with intensity and fought hard throughout,” Ancelotti said. “We have to be happy with the way we played this game, luck was not on our side but the team proved to be fit and we have the drive and ability to put this match quickly behind us.”

The Italian said that Undiano Mallenco’s decisions had not helped his side, but all they could do now was focus on winning Wednesday’s tricky La Liga trip to in-form Sevilla.

“It is difficult for me to comment on the referee's decisions in this match because he had a lot of decisions to make,” Ancelotti said. “[Ramos' sending-off] was the key moment in the match because we were 3-2 ahead and then everything changed. With a man down it is difficult to control the game. I don't know, it could be that some decisions went against us but that doesn't change anything. What we have to do now is prepare well for the Sevilla game.”

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