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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Barcelona and Valverde upset by 'invisible' penalty as Messi goal not enough to claim victory over Las Palmas

The Primera Liga leaders held to a 1-1 draw by their relegation-threatened opponents

Some of Barcelona's players remonstrate with referee Antonio Lahoz after Las Palmas are awarded a penalty. Santiago Ferrero / Reuters
Some of Barcelona's players remonstrate with referee Antonio Lahoz after Las Palmas are awarded a penalty. Santiago Ferrero / Reuters

Ernesto Valverde called the penalty decision that cost Barcelona victory at Las Palmas "invisible" and admitted he was still none the wiser over why it was given.

Unbeaten Primera Liga leaders Barca dropped points for the third time in five league games as they were held to a 1-1 draw at struggling Las Palmas.

Valverde's side led through Lionel Messi's free-kick but were pegged after the break by Jonathan Calleri's spot-kick, which was seemingly awarded for what was deemed a deliberate handball against Lucas Digne, rather than a tug on Matias Aguirregaray.

Both would have seemed harsh and Valverde was furious with referee Antonio Mateu, particularly after goalkeeper Leandro Chichizola had gone unpunished on the stroke of half-time when he appeared to deliberately handle after rushing out of his box.

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"We don't know what the referee blew for during that play," Valverde said in his post-match press conference.

"Nobody knows in the dressing room. In that phase of play we don't understand what he blew for, it was inexplicable. We hope that his decision will become a little clearer when we see a replay. It was an invisible penalty."

On Chichizola's handball, Valverde added: "For me, it was really clear."

Though Barcelona are yet to lose in their domestic division, six of the 12 points they have dropped all term have come in their past five contests.

That form has given second-placed Atletico Madrid hope they can overhaul Barcelona, and they visit the Nou Camp this weekend having won eight in a row in all competitions.

"The match against Atletico comes up fast and it'll be important for both teams," Valverde added.

"We go in to it with a bad taste in our mouths, because we could have got a win. We're the leaders and we're keen to stay in first place."

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This was the first time since 2002 that Las Palmas had taken a point off Barcelona in the Primera Liga, though they remain in the bottom three.

In quotes published on Las Palmas' official Twitter account, boss Paco Jemez said: "I have seen some other things in my players.

"It reinforces us more having achieved the point against a team like Barca than the point itself.

"We have defended very well, with intensity and courage. In attack we have to work and improve quite a lot. I have to be ambitious and I think we can do more with the ball.

"This point gives us the impetus to keep fighting."