Lionel Messi AVOIDS 12-match ban for punching opponent in Super Cup final defeat by Athletic Bilbao as Spanish FA deem red-card incident was not severe enough, with Barcelona star handed just a two-game suspension
- Lionel Messi was sent off for first time in his Barcelona career on Sunday night
- The Argentine was dismissed after striking Asier Villalibre in the final minute
- He has been handed a two-match ban by the Spanish FA for the incident
- The transgression was not deemed severe enough to merit a 12-match ban
Lionel Messi has avoided a 12-match ban for punching an Athletic Bilbao player in the final minute of Barcelona’s Spanish Super Cup final defeat on Sunday.
The Spanish FA have slapped Messi with just a two-match suspension as they did not deem the incident to be severe enough to merit a longer one.
Messi will miss Barcelona’s match against third-tier minnows Cornella in the Copa del Rey and against Elche in LaLiga.
Lionel Messi has avoided a 12-match ban for his red card in the Spanish Super Cup final
Messi was sent off in the 120th minute of defeat by Athletic Bilbao for hitting Asier Villalibre
The Argentine received the first red card of his Barcelona career in the last minute of extra time for striking Athletic Bilbao forward Asier Villalibre around the head off the ball.
Referee Gil Manzano said in his match report that Messi hit his opponent with ‘excessive force’ while the ball was not near him.
Messi was facing been ruled out of a significant portion of the domestic season, with Ronald Koeman’s side third in the table and already seven points back of leaders Atletico Madrid – who have two games in hand.
Messi lost his head as Koeman’s men hurtled towards another damaging defeat in their first final under the Dutchman’s leadership.
Barca had been leading until the final minute of normal time before Villalibre forced an extra half-an-hour.
The winner came three minutes into extra time when Iker Muniain’s pass reached Inaki Williams and he wrapped his right foot around the ball, curling it past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Messi was facing a lengthy ban if the Spanish FA deemed that the incident was ‘aggressive’
The Argentine was given his marching orders with the Catalan outfit on the verge of defeat
Koeman backed his star man on Sunday night, saying Messi’s frustration at being repeatedly fouled throughout the game unsurprisingly boiled over.
‘I can understand what Messi did,’ the Dutchman said after the match.
‘I don’t know how many times they fouled him, and it’s normal to react when they keep trying to foul you as a player who is looking to dribble with the ball, but I need to see it again properly.’
Questions were asked about whether Messi should even have started in the cup final, as he had missed the semi-final victory over Real Sociedad earlier in the week through injury.
Koeman, however, let Messi make the final decision on his fitness, and stood by his call.
‘I think after so many years at the top level, he knows when he can play and when he can’t,’ Koeman said. ‘I spoke with him and he said he was fit enough to start the game.’
Messi lost his head in extra time as the game slipped away from Ronald Koeman’s team
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