- Associated Press - Monday, January 9, 2017

MADRID (AP) - Gerard Pique is frustrated with the refereeing in Spain, and he’s not hiding it.

Complaining about a penalty kick not being awarded to Barcelona against Villarreal over the weekend, Pique pointed his finger at the VIP box and yelled toward officials before leaving the field.

“Hey, did you see it?” the Spain defender shouted. “Yeah, you. Did you see it?”

Spanish media at the match said Pique was talking to Spanish league president Javier Tebas. Pique later would only say that “the person he was talking to knew who he was.”

“There were other people in the tribunes, I don’t consider myself so important to think that Pique was referring to me,” Tebas told local media on Monday. “I agree with Pique that the level of the refereeing needs to improve.”

Pique had already complained after Barcelona’s loss at Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey last week, hinting that officials were benefiting rival Real Madrid. His comments prompted the officiating committee to consider sanctions.

“The committee can lose their time analyzing my comments if it wants to,” Pique told local media. “I obviously believe in what I said, and week after week they are proving my point.”

Pique’s recent complaints have gone against Barcelona’s more neutral stance on public complaints about refereeing.

“I’ve always been cautious when it comes to the officiating,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said after the Athletic match. “We have to try to help the referees. It’s difficult to make a decision in a split second.”

Pique complained of two penalty calls that were not awarded to Barcelona in the 2-1 loss to nine-man Athletic in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey on Thursday. The day before, Sevilla had loudly complained about the refereeing in its 3-0 loss at Real Madrid.

“We know how this works. We saw what happened in the game between Sevilla and Madrid the other day,” Pique said. “We want to play football, not roulette. They (the referees) have to improve their level.”

After Sunday’s 1-1 draw, Pique was livid because of a hand-ball inside the area by Villarreal midfielder Bruno Soriano. Moments later, though, the referee also didn’t call a penalty the other way on a hand-ball by Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano. Pique argued that Mascherano’s play was involuntary, contrary to Soriano’s.

“There are teams that gain more than they lose in these situations,” Athletic defender Mikel San Jose said last week. “I understand some complain more than others. I don’t think that a team that ended the match with nine men can feel that it was benefited. The referee did his job, we all make right and wrong decisions.”

The refereeing committee is expected to decide on Monday whether to seek sanctions against Pique for his recent comments.

Sunday’s draw, salvaged by a 90th-minute free kick converted by Lionel Messi, left Barcelona third in the Spanish league, five points behind leader Real Madrid, which has a game in hand. Sevilla is second.

Barcelona’s next match is Wednesday against Athletic at the Camp Nou. The two-time defending champions need a win to advance to the Copa del Rey quarterfinals.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tazzoni

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