Barcelona not only lost the match in Málaga; they also lost face. Sandro Ramírez's opener saw them swiftly engaged in furious protests to the referee, dissent that replays proved unfounded: the forward was in his own half when the ball was played. Indeed, it was Jérémy Mathieu, one of the ringleaders of the complaints, who helped Sandro on his way by trying to catch him offside in an area of the pitch where he couldn't be. From then on, and even beforehand too, Barça were far too focused on the ref. After getting himself sent off, Neymar sarcastically applauded the fourth official (what had he done?) and left himself in even hotter water than he was already in. Meanwhile, Luis Enrique later moaned about the foul in the box on Sergi Roberto, but glossed over a wrongly disallowed Adalberto Peñaranda goal.
Poor Barcelona attitude tops off poor performance
It was all a very unseemly way to put the tin lid on a poor Barça display, a game they took their first steps towards losing when (either with their coach's blessing or actually at his behest, I'm not sure which) Gerard Piqué and Ivan Rakitic wiped their yellow-card slates clean at the cost of missing the Málaga trip. Los Azulgranas' cause was additionally undermined by an umpteenth damp squib from André Gomes, by the fielding of Javier Mascherano at full-back alongside two left-footed central defenders and, finally, by a strangely weak night from their big-name front three. Of the trio, Leo Messi and Luis Suárez simply had bad games; Neymar, however, went further, playing up by again fiddling with his boots to get the cameras on them, playing dirty to earn a second booking, and playing the fool with his applause.
Barcelona letting values of Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta and Co slip
And there was also the sight of Suárez having a go at Sandro for his goal celebration... The lad even felt the need to apologise post-match, clarifying what was already crystal clear: he'd simply been expressing his and his team's delight, not delighting in others' misfortune. All of this together leads me to believe that a kind of 'Piqué effect' is taking hold at Barça, tugging the group towards attitudes a far cry from those of Puyol, Xavi and Iniesta. Of that three, only Iniesta remains. He continues to be an example of sense and good judgement, but he's becoming a silent minority. The noisy majority is clustered around Piqué, who is pushing Barça in the sort of wrong direction reminiscent of José Mourinho in his time at Real Madrid.