‘I never comment on referees and I’m not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat.’ No it wasn’t Pepe Mel on Saturday night but it was Ron Atkinson a while back. It was said many years ago but Real Betis fans could understand it perfectly. Valencia won but Mel was fuming. Enough was enough and he wanted answers. In the press conference afterwards he said that he was planning to go to Madrid on Tuesday and meet with the Comité Técnico de Árbitros and ask them why ‘Betis are the idiots of La Liga.’ This had been some time coming. It is still unknown what he said in the meeting but it would have been great to have been a fly on the wall.
Anyone who knows Pepe Mel knows that he isn’t one to mince his words. His press conferences are always fun to watch. He speaks his mind and calls a spade a spade. Fans love him for it and for journalists he is a dream come true as he always provides something noteworthy. Last season he famously said that he would prefer that his daughter came home pregnant than see Betis go down.
At the start of this season he had a go at the refs. While he has at times defended refs, he also has come down hard on them. Against Atlético de Madrid in September he said that while he respected the ref, Álvarez Izquierdo, he said that he hoped he had a television at home so he could see all the mistakes he made. He pointed out that the two red cards were poor decisions and that Atleti had ridden their luck at times. While that was quite a statement, the Coach admitted that he was holding his tongue a little as he didn’t want to prejudice his club and players. He also pointed out that at the time Betis had gone well over a year without getting a penalty.
This morning a meeting took place in Las Rozas. A group of referees and some Coaches were meeting. Mourinho and Roura were not in attendance. Neither was Diego Simeone but Mono Burgos went in his stead. Mel at first didn’t seem to be interested in going but after Saturday’s game he was determined to voice his opinion. Valencia got a penalty and Betis a red card for an incident that happened outside the box. There were another few dodgy decisions that irked him too and enough was enough and he wanted to vent.
Week after week, games are ruined by terrible decisions from officials. Penalties that are clear from the stands are ignored, cards are given out for no reason and refs get affected by the situation. Last year it was said in the Spanish press that a new rule involving handball had been introduced. Three La Liga Coaches were asked about the new rule and all admitted that they knew of no such rule. Each week, each ref seems to do whatever he feels like. Marca and AS have referees on the staff and after each game they write a column about the mistakes the refs make. It is not happy reading and it is also a bit of a smack in the face for officials from former officials.
Not many will disagree will Mel’s comments. The penalty was a poor call and the red card turned the game on its head. It was another game where Real Betis will feel they were robbed. It had all the hallmarks of a great game with two teams that are battling it out for the last Champions League spots. Valencia took the spoils and now they just two points ahead of Los Beticos and two points off the Europe’s elite competition. Betis are still in it though but the gloves are off for Pepe Mel.
Around the Grounds.
Celta Vigo defender Hugo Mallo made all the headlines in the Galicia derby and he wasn’t even playing! After an injury that will see him out until the start of next season, he went to the tie with a supporters club from Vigo. A friend took a picture of him holding a ‘For Sale’ sign with a Deportivo logo. The photo went viral and at the game he had a go at some Coruña fans. He was forced to come out and apologise and Celta have said that they will be pursuing the issue. On the pitch Deportivo took the spoils. A 3-1 win gives them some hope of survival.
Mallorca had Real Madrid on the ropes but two big changes by Mourinho made the differences in the second half. Not only did Manzano’s men go up twice but they looked like they may be about to pull off a shock. Enter Benzema and Özil and the game turned on its head and Real Madrid powered on and won the tie.
Messi is at it again and now has sixty goals so far. Dani Alves was sporting a new haircut and Rayo Vallecano were left with no chance.
Wins for Atlético, Sevilla, Getafe and Espanyol and a draw for Granada and Levante sees just seven points separate 11th from 5th. The fight from Europe is heating up.