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Atlético players, team manager incensed after draw at Reale Arena

More complaints aimed toward the refereeing.

Real Sociedad v Atletico de Madrid - LaLiga Santander
Robin Le Normand of Real Sociedad duels for the ball with Alvaro Morata of Club Atletico de Madrid during the LaLiga Santander match between Real Sociedad and Atletico de Madrid at Reale Arena on September 03, 2022 in San Sebastian, Spain.
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid players expressed contempt for match referee César Soto Grado and VAR official Jaime Latre’s decisions during Saturday evening’s 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad.

After seeing Álvaro Morata’s second first-half goal ruled out for a João Félix handball, the Rojiblancos could only watch and seethe as La Real forward Umar Sadiq equalized in the 55th minute — the ball clearly rolling in off the Nigerian’s shoulder and arm.

In the 96th minute of a match that featured nine yellow cards (four for Atlético), Soto Grado blew for a foul as substitute Ángel Correa appeared to break away for a 1v1 opportunity in the penalty area. Rather than playing advantage, the referee chose to award Atleti a free kick outside the penalty area where Antoine Griezmann was cut down.

Real Sociedad v Atletico de Madrid - LaLiga Santander Photo by Ion Alcoba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

“(Soto Grado) could have let that play continue like he had on other occasions, but he cut it off,” Koke told Movistar after the match. “I don’t know if (Correa) was offside or not, but I think he had to let the play continue. VAR checked our disallowed goal, and their goal also went in off a hand. (The referees) come to give us talks, and then they act differently from what they tell us.”

Koke later told Atlético’s official social media channel that “their goal was scored with a hand.”

“I saw the video of the goal that we conceded, and the attacker scored it with his arm after the ball hit his head,” Axel Witsel said post-match. “We deserved much more than one point.”

Club liaison Tomás Reñones, who played for Atlético in the 1980s and 1990s, had harsher words as the standard of Spanish refereeing continues to plumb unforeseen depths.

“We have to understand that referees can also have bad days. Today is a clear example of a very bad day,” he said. “The general feeling is one of great disappointment … The referees give us a talk every year at the beginning of the season, and then what is carried out is totally different ... We’ve spent a lot of money on VAR, and the judgments are still personal.”

Reñones also complained about the number of fouls Morata and João Félix sustained. Opposing game plans to slow down the Portuguese are becoming more and more cynical — João has been fouled 13 times in four games and has zero goal involvements since notching a hat trick of assists at Getafe three weeks ago.

Both Morata and Marcos Llorente uploaded Instagram stories after the game that show Real Sociedad players tugging their jerseys and impeding their forward progress.

“(Real Sociedad) have been constantly allowed to foul them, they have not been punished in any way — and we have even received bookings,” Reñones said. “And then, when you can score a goal at the end of the game, the referee does not let the play continue to see if it finishes, when he can review it with VAR ... It is continuous nonsense.”

Atlético may rightfully be aggrieved with the referees and the wildly-inconsistent criteria that seems to change weekly, but the Rojiblancos will have to put this behind them quickly. After only four weeks of action, Atleti are already five points behind Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga and head home to the Cívitas Metropolitano to face Porto in the Champions League group stage opener on Wednesday.

“We have to keep playing and accept what’s been done, because they’re not going to change anything after it’s happened,” Morata said post-match.