Soft penalty for Barcelona?! Man Utd furious as Bruno Fernandes' takedown of Alejandro Balde controversially ruled a foul
- Fernandes adjudged to have fouled Balde
- Contact by United midfielder minimal
- But prolonged nature of contact crucial
WHAT HAPPENED? The Barca full-back picked the ball up inside the box and soon came under pressure from United's midfielder. As Fernandes placed his arm on his opponent to try and defend the threat, Balde went to ground. That was enough for the referee to point to the spot - much to the displeasure of the Portugal international and the majority of those inside Old Trafford.
Lewandowski from the spot 🎯#UEL pic.twitter.com/1tpzSiSMf7— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 23, 2023
Robert Lewandowski puts Barcelona ahead from the spot despite David De Gea's best efforts, but was it a penalty? 👀 pic.twitter.com/b5uGNXyJRL— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) February 23, 2023
WHY WAS IT GIVEN? Although contact was minimal, the prolonged nature of Fernandes' contact was deemed crucial in making the decision. The Portuguese star had a hold of Balde's arm for a significant amount of time, which was enough to call the foul regardless of the severity of the tug. Once the decision was made, it was not deemed a clear enough error to warrant the intervention of VAR.
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Once the penalty was called, Robert Lewandowski duly stepped up to take it. Following his typical stuttered jump-and-shoot, David de Gea got a significant glove on the effort only to see the ball still strike the inside of the post and go in. The Poland international's 18th-minute opener was the dream start for Xavi's side, and was proof that his players had heeded his advice not to be anxious for the occasion.
However, early in the second half, Fred managed an equaliser for United to level the score before Antony secured a 4-3 aggregate win to send the hosts through to the Europa League round of 16.
DID YOU KNOW? Lewandowski's strike means he has now scored 25 goals or more in each of the last 12 seasons.
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WHAT NEXT? After Thursday's blockbuster Europa League clash, United meet Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final while Barcelona travel to Almeria in La Liga, both on Sunday.