Luis Suarez faces ban

SUAREZMADRID. — Barcelona striker Luis Suarez faces a Copa del Rey ban after being accused by the referee of provoking Espanyol players following a heated Catalan derby.

Barca came from behind to claim a 4-1 win in the first leg of Wednesday night’s Copa del Rey last-16 tie but the game proved a feisty affair as Espanyol had two players sent off and were lucky to escape further punishment as goalkeeper Pau Lopez appeared to stamp on Lionel Messi.

Suarez was also booked for a clash with Lopez but could yet receive a ban of up to three cup matches for sparking a clash in the tunnel that the referee, writing in his post-match report, claimed security personnel had to break up.

“Whilst all the Espanyol players climbed the stairs in the tunnel towards the dressing rooms, he (Suarez) waited for them and confronted them saying on various occasions: ‘Here I am waiting for you, come here; you are a waste of space’,” referee Juan Martinez Munuera noted in his report.

“That provoked a clash between players from both clubs forcing security personnel present and the managerial staff from both teams to intervene.”

Espanyol’s physical approach had frustrated Barca in an equally fiery clash between the two in La Liga on Saturday which finished 0-0.

“The referees are the ones to set the limits,” Enrique said.

Any Suarez ban would be his first since the four-month suspension he received for biting Italy’s Giogio Chiellini while playing for Argentina at the 2014 World Cup.

Meanwhile, a Messi-inspired Barcelona reacted from the shock of conceding early to edge towards the Copa del Rey quarter-finals with a 4-1 win over nine-man Espanyol on Wednesday night.

Spanish La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid still have work to do to reach the last eight, though, after being held 1-1 at Rayo Vallecano.

Espanyol held the European champions 0-0 in a bad-tempered first of three meetings between the sides in 10 days at the weekend and threatened an upset early on through Felipe Caicedo’s composed finish.

Yet, Messi took just four minutes to restore parity before blasting a stunning free-kick in off the underside of the bar just before half-time.

The Argentine teed up Gerard Pique for a third and then Neymar for a sensational volleyed finish two minutes from time to hand Barca a commanding advantage ahead of the second leg on January 13.

However, Messi was lucky to escape without being seriously injured after being violently stamped on by Espanyol goalkeeper Pau Lopez without any action taken by the officials before Hernan Perez and Papakouli Diop were dismissed.

“The referees are the ones to set the limits. They are responsible for ensuring this is football and not American football,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique of Espanyol’s rough-house tactics. — AFP.

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