Unusual Referee Mea Culpa Portends Valencia’s Stunning Upset Of Barcelona

Everything seemed to go Barcelona’s way. It had more possession, more shots and more help from officials. But Valencia still found a way to win 2-0, handing Quique Setién his first loss as Barça coach on Saturday.

Barcelona won its first game with new manager Setién thanks to a delightful finish from Lionel Messi on Sunday. But Barça struggled to beat third-tier Ibiza in the Round of 32 in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, needing two late Antoine Griezmann goals to rally from an early deficit, 2-1. 

Saturday’s match was a different story, with Valencia fully deserving of its victory, despite Barcelona holding 74 percent of possession. 

Valencia vs Barcelona Highlights

Perhaps we should’ve known it would be Valencia’s day when referee Gil Manzano actually admitted making a mistake, something you rarely see from refs, even in the days of VAR.

The odd moment came late in the first half. Maxi Gómez was ruthlessly chopped down at midfield by Samuel Umtiti, but Valencia attempted to play advantage with a long ball sent toward Ferrán Torres. The referee either thought there was a head injury or didn’t see Ferrán on the wing (no Barça defenders were near), and blew his whistle, ignoring the advantage.

Shockingly, Manzano admitted his mistake and could be seen apologizing for the shit call.

Embed from Getty Images

It wasn’t the only bizarre call to go against Valencia resulting in cries of UEFAlona from Reddit trolls, who all believe they could do a better job of officiating.

Gabriel Paulista scored a brilliant volley off a corner kick late in the match for Valencia, but the goal was waved off. Manzano apparently thought Gabriel shoved Sergio Busquets to the ground and blew his whistle at the start of the play. After VAR intervention showed Busquets fell over his own teammate, the officials decided to let Valencia retake the corner kick, apparently deciding the ref had blown his whistle before the play began, which was kind of a bullshit, cop-out decision. 

For a long time, it looked like officiating decisions might cost Valencia. Barcelona No. 1 Marc-André ter Stegen had a stellar first half to deny the home side. Even as the Blaugrana racked up nearly three-quarters of possession, Valencia threatened with efficient forays forward that regularly ended with shots on target.

The past year has seen much debate surrounding who should be Germany’s No. 1 keeper. Manuel Neuer redefined the position and helped Die Mannschaft win a World Cup, but many say he’s lost a step and should be replaced by Ter Stegen. Watching highlights, it’s hard to disagree with the latter sentiment. 

Ter Stegen used Saturday’s match as another reminder that maybe he should be given a chance on the national team.

Less than 15 minutes into the match, Gerard Piqué took down José Gayà in the box only to be bailed out by a brilliant save of Ter Stegen on Maxi Gómez.

Stunningly, it was the first penalty save in LaLiga by a Barça keeper since 2015.

Ter Stegen also made this marvelous double save in the 29th minute.

Eventually, Valencia found a way past Ter Stegen thanks to a major deflection. 

Three minutes into the second half, a Maxi Gómez shot caromed off Jordi Alba past Ter Stegen for an own goal.

With a one-goal lead at home, it was time for Valencia to pull out the dark arts, albeit not so subtly from Francis Coquelin on this yellow-card “tackle” on Lionel Messi.

To be honest, as an Arsenal fan with PTSD of the Coquelin-Gabriel days, I expected Messi to shrug off the tackle and do this.

Regardless of the optics, Valencia was able to stymy Barcelona’s attack and took a 2-0 lead in the 77th minute. Somehow, Gómez was left wide open at the edge of the 18, and even though the Uruguayan took a touch back toward the defense to set up his right foot, he still found a way to beat Ter Stegen with a superb strike.

The loss for Barcelona means Real Madrid can jump into first place with a win over Real Valladolid on Sunday.

Videos you might like