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‘Slump is worrying’

Madrid: Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has claimed that Real Madrid tend to get the big decisions from referees after his side were denied a last minute penalty in their 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid.

Sergio Ramos’ header nine minutes from time proved to be the winner after Karim Benzema and Lionel Messi had exchanged goals in the first half on Saturday.

But Pique and his teammates were left aggrieved after Ramos appeared to fell Adriano inside the box with Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes even receiving a red card for his protests after the final whistle had been blown.

“We said to the referee that it seemed clear to us, but we already know how these things go. Against Real Madrid, if the game is close, just by chance, things tend to go in their favour,” said Pique.

“We are left with the feeling that a draw would have been a fair result if we had been given the penalty, but we cannot make this excuse because this team has too much quality to depend on refereeing decisions to win games.”

The defeat was Barca’s third defeat in four games and Pique admits they are struggling to find their best form.

“You can’t maintain this level for 12 months. It’s not possible to win every match. In the last four years we have always had moments in which our level of performance has dropped.

“However, it is clear that we have had three of four bad games and this is serious. This slump is worrying.”

On the other hand, victory came as even more of a welcome surprise for the hosts after manager Jose Mourinho made seven changes to the side that had beaten Barca 3-1 in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday with star-player Cristiano Ronaldo starting on the bench.

However, even without their talisman they made the perfect start as Benzema tapped home Alvaro Morata’s cross before Messi brought Barca level with a trademark left-footed finish 12 minutes later.

Ronaldo’s introduction after the break though sparked the game into life and after Valdes had produced fine saves to beat away the Portuguese’s free-kick and deny Morata when he was clean through, Ramos left the Barca keeper helpless as he rose highest to power home Luka Modric’s corner.

Madrid’s victory keeps their very slim hopes of retaining their title alive as it cuts Barca’s lead over the champions to 13 points, but as Mourinho’s team selection indicated that Tuesday’s make or break Champions League tie with Manchester United, with the tie level at 1-1, is more important. (Agencies)