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Lionel Messi was the victim of this nasty stamp last night
Luis Enrique claimed the match officials had failed to “make sure this is football and not American football”.

LUIS ENRIQUE SUGGESTED the match officials had failed to “make sure this is football and not American football” during Barcelona’s 4-1 victory over Espanyol in the Copa del Rey.

The visitors had two players sent off in the second half at Camp Nou and nine others — four of whom play for Barcelona — received a yellow card, while a nasty stamp on Lionel Messi by Espanyol goalkeeper Pau López went unpunished.

The Barca boss refused to directly accuse the referee and his assistants of losing control over the match but reiterated that it is their responsibility to ensure tension does not boil over.

“The limits are set by the referees,” Luis Enrique told reporters. “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.”

When asked if he felt Espanyol had gone beyond those limits, he replied: “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.”

The 45-year-old was similarly tight-lipped when asked about shouting coming from the dressing rooms after the match, deadpanning: “That was Christmas carols.”

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Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal made their long-awaited debuts for Barcelona following the lifting of the club’s transfer ban and Luis Enrique praised their performances.

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

The former Roma coach admitted that he was struggling to describe the quality of Andres Iniesta at the end of another virtuoso midfield display.

It’s very difficult to pick out just one of his qualities,” he enthused. “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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