In a clash of European heavyweights, on a stage that humbled both teams, FC Barcelona and Manchester United played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp in the first leg of their Round of 32 tie in the Europa League.
Despite plenty of action on the field, controversial refereeing decisions and VAR calls emerged as big talking points. When United were 2-1 up, Jules Kounde took down Marcus Rashford, which Red Devils manager Erik Ten Hag believes was a ‘clear foul’, near the edge of the box. United called for a penalty, but the referee and VAR both disagreed.
Ten Hag was furious, however, that it was not given as a red card and suggested it was the pressure of the atmosphere at the Nou Camp that influenced the referee. “It was 2-1, a clear foul on Marcus Rashford and a penalty. If it’s in the box or just outside the box, it’s definitely a red card,” he was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
“I asked the referee: why? He said it was outside the box and it was no foul. The referee and the linesman were in a good position and if not there is the VAR. It’s not good. It’s a really bad decision.”
“Maybe they were impressed by the pressure that Barcelona made but they can’t be at the highest level,” the Dutchman added.
Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez was equally furious over a possible penalty to the hosts, when the ball appeared to hit United midfielder Fred’s hand in the box. “It’s a penalty the size of a cathedral; how are you going to feel?” he said. “I don’t know what they have to do to blow a penalty for handball. They looked at it as well and said no. It seems incredible to me, incredible.”
Barcelona will now be travelling to Old Trafford for a high-stakes second leg next week with the ties even, and the elimination of the ‘away-goals rule’ last year diminishing any advantage United may have had.
Ten Hag will want his side to be more ruthless in front of goal if they are to get through. “In a game when you create five or seven chances you have to finish more,” he said after the game. “We need to be more clinical, finish our chances. In such a game we created many chances and there is a disappointment that we did not finish them.”