Orlando City SC head coach Oscar Pareja was visibly upset with officiating after his side’s 3-1 loss to Inter Miami that saw them eliminated from the Leagues Cup, and deemed the game “a circus.”
Inter Miami were the better side on the night and probably still would’ve gone on to win without Josef Martinez’s penalty kick, but that can’t take away from the fact that Messi may have been lucky to not be sent off in the game. At least, that’s what Pareja strongly believes.
“There was a double yellow card for Leo Messi. I don’t care that he was Messi. That affects the game. The match should be fair and that was not the case on the field,” Pareja stated.
“We take our responsibility. OK, we lost, we are frustrated but I have to say, you cannot hide this kind of situation,” he said
After Messi was booked in the first half in the 21st minute, it seemed like the Orlando players were starting to get under the Argentine’s skin.
At one point in the game, while the 36-year-old was on a yellow card, he practically shoulder checked Orlando’s Cesar Araujo – who scored a brace – away from the action and wasn’t punished for it. Right after that moment, Araujo tracked Messi down and instead earned himself a yellow card, which brought some irony to the situation.
This, as expected, brought a lot of negative reactions from not only Orlando fans but MLS fans as a whole.
That wasn’t the only moment in the game where Pareja was livid with the referee. While the game was even at 1-1, Martinez was brought down in Orlando’s penalty area – and Pareja couldn’t believe that head referee Ivan Cisneros didn’t take a second look at it through the VAR monitor.
“The penalty was unbelievable. Unbelievable. If the VAR was there and we have referees then we have to be honest and go and see it because the game deserved it,” he said.
“We’re frustrated. The people want to see soccer and things have to be fair, [but in this game] it was not the case.”
“The attention that we get with all that is happening it becomes a circus, [this game] was a circus.”
Pareja does have a point. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the world’s greatest player get the special treatment in officiating terms, as it tends to happen in a lot of sports leagues around the globe, unfortunately. If Messi was sent off, that obviously would’ve changed the complexion of the game.
But Miami and Messi’s brilliance still would’ve probably held on without the penalty kick, and it will be interesting to see how fans react to refereeing decisions in Messi’s time in MLS.
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