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Duty of referee to prevent football from turning into American football, says Luis Enrique

Enrique talks about the debut displays of Turan and Vidal while he also praised Iniesta's imperious midfield display

The Copa del Rey game between rivals Barcelona and Espanyol turned out to be an ill-tempered clash

Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has opined that the referee was incapable in stopping the Espanyol players from crossing the limits of aggression in a tempestuous Copa Del Rey duel between the Catalan clubs at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona won 4-1 against Espanyol in a match which saw a hapless away side rarely trying to have any sort of positive impact on the game. Luis Enrique said that the match officials had failed to make sure it was “football and not American football.”

It was a rather aggressive match and a total of 11 yellow cards and two red cards were shown as a result. For Barcelona, Neymar, Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi recieved a yellow card each. Espanyol’s Hernan Perez and Pape Kouli Diop were shown the red during the second half of the game. Diop had been warned several times before that.

Both Messi and Suarez lost their tempers a couple of times and were seen involved in heated exchanges and taunts. Pau Lopez, the Espanyol goalkeeper stepped on Messi’s ankle in the penalty area after they collided and they got into a row. Lopez later claimed that it was not intentional.

In his ever so diplomatic way Enrique did not directly heap accusations on the referee and his assistants and say that they lost control over the match, but he emphasised that the responsibility of keeping things under control during a game has to lie squarely on their shoulders.

Speaking to journalists in the post-match conference Luis Enrique said, "The limits are set by the referees. Those are the ones who are in charge of making sure this is football and not American football.”

"Tonight there was intensity and tension but it’s the match officials who mark the limits."

A question that was naturally put forward by the reporters after this statement was whether he though that the Espanyol players had crossed those limits. To which his reply was again tactful, “"I’m not going to go into that.

"[I am only concerned] about the things that distance us from playing football. What we’re looking to do is play. When someone oversteps the mark, there’s a referee.”

"I’m concerned about the anti-sport side. We’re both teams who have our own tendencies and you have to understand that from a positive point of view."

Enrique pleased with debut displays of Turan and Vidal

The 45-year-old coach humoured the press when they asked him about the shouts that were heard from the dressing rooms after the match. He said, “That was Christmas carols.”

Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal made their debuts for Barcelona on the very same day and the coach heaped praises on them,

"I was pleased with Arda and Aleix, it’s clear that it’s been while since both of them last competed. They gave us solutions and Aleix put in some very good minutes."

He was at a loss of words when it came to talking about Andres Iniesta’s midfield display. Luis Enrique just said,

"It’s very difficult to pick out just one of his qualities. He possesses a unique peripheral vision - like Xavi.”

"I’ve never known anybody who is able to see what’s behind him. He’s a magical player and an unrepeatable one."

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