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Iniesta refuses to blame Malaga defeat on referee

Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta insists it is pointless to blame the officials for the 2-0 defeat to Malaga on Saturday.

The champions failed to capitalise on LaLiga leaders Real Madrid surrendering a late lead against Atletico Madrid as goals from former Barca forward Sandro Ramirez and Jony secured maximum points for the hosts at La Rosaleda.

Barca had Neymar sent off in the second half, the Brazil star earning a second booking for a strong challenge on Diego Llorente after he had earlier been cautioned for delaying a free-kick by tying his laces.

Head coach Luis Enrique was left bemused by the decision and was similarly frustrated that referee Jesus Gil Manzano awarded a free-kick rather than a penalty when Sergi Roberto was tripped just inside the penalty area.

Iniesta refused to pin blame on the officials, however, and called on his team-mates to put the match behind them as they prepare for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final with Juventus on Tuesday.

"It was a real shame. We have missed a good opportunity to put ourselves in a favourable position to win LaLiga," he said, as quoted by Sport.

"Hopefully we won't slip up again but the league is more difficult. The table is how it is.

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"The team played a good game and fought until the end, but sometimes things don't go your way. Malaga took advantage of their chances very well.

"I'm one of those who thinks that talking about referees won't get you anywhere. It's not easy to make decisions on the pitch.

"We have to draw conclusions and then forget this game. We have to turn the page, change our mentality and think only about Juve."

Barca are three points behind Madrid, who have a game in hand, and defender Javier Mascherano has conceded that the Clasico on April 23 is now a must-win game for his side.

"We have to win at the Santiago Bernabeu and hope that Real Madrid drop further points," he told Movistar +.

"But these things happen. I can't fault the team, we gave it our all.

"Unfortunately we didn't control the game, and once we went behind it was an uphill struggle. We had chances to equalise but we knew they could always catch us on the counter."