Diego Simeone is confused by the rules for handball after Atletico Madrid were on the wrong end of a contentious penalty decision against Celta Vigo.
LaLiga champions Atleti began their title defence with a gritty 2-1 victory over Celta on Sunday – Angel Correa’s double proving decisive.
Correa opened the scoring with a brilliant strike in the first half, but Celta equalised before the hour after Marcos Llorente was adjudged to have handled from Iago Aspas’ flick.
Jan Oblak had fumbled a cross to Aspas, who attempted to prod home. His effort struck Llorente’s chest and rolled to his knee before bouncing onto the midfielder’s arm and, to Atleti’s fury, the referee pointed to the spot after checking with the VAR.
Correa swiftly restored Atletico’s lead, and the champions held firm despite a late flurry – Aspas missing an open goal before Mario Hermoso and Hugo Mallo were sent off for violent conduct in stoppage time.
In his post-match news conference, Simeone revealed he is struggling to understand what the rules regarding handball are.
“The other day we were meeting with the referees and it is very difficult to understand what is handball and what is not,” Simeone said.
“I still believe that VAR is very good and that the referees seek to decide what they see as the best.”
Backing up Simeone’s point, Celta striker Aspas – who converted the spot-kick – acknowledged he did not initially believe a penalty would be awarded.
“It is not clear to me about the handball. If I’m honest, at the time I thought it wasn’t a penalty,” the forward told Movistar+.
“I didn’t see it quite right. Marcos [Llorente] told me it was not and I trusted him until the referee decided it was a penalty.”
— Kieran Trippier (@trippier2) August 15, 2021
Atleti are now unbeaten in their past 12 LaLiga openers, and Simeone was pleased with a typically battling performance – a 60.7 per cent duel success rate demonstrating their approach.
“We played a very good game. We created many difficulties for a team that plays very well,” Simeone said.
“In the second half after the penalty, a different dynamism is generated and the team responds very well with a goal.
“The pace with which it was played was very high. It makes me very happy. We talked about how to solve this very different preparation that all the teams had and we tried to make it a challenge and not a problem.”