If you missed Lionel Messi’s foul on Pepe during El Clasico last Saturday, don’t worry - you’re not alone.
Even referee Alejandro Hernández failed to spot it.
But it happened. In the 55th minute, while Real Madrid were defending a set-piece, Messi charged into the Portuguese defender, bringing him to the ground with an uncharacteristic barge. (Scroll down this page to watch the video).
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It seems clear this was a tactical foul by Messi, designed to take Pepe out of the equation to leave Barcelona’s taller guys - Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets - a better chance of attacking the ball.
Barcelona won another corner, after Messi’s challenge went unpunished, from which Pique scored the opening goal of the match with a header.
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Video: Messi's challenge on Pepe
Pepe, not being marked by Messi for the second corner, lost track of Pique, who headed into the ground past Keylor Navas.
However, goals from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo earned Real Madrid a surprise 2-1 victory at the Camp Nou.
Pepe and Messi have history
Pepe and Messi have history in Clasicos.
Back in 2012, the hot-headed defender cynically stood on Messi’s hand while the Barcelona superstar was down on the ground.
Pepe wasn't punished for Messi stamp
Real Madrid did not punish Pepe for his stamp after Jose Mourinho unsurprisingly accepted the centre-back’s claim that it was an accident.
“Pepe apologised and that's enough for me,” the Portuguese coach was quoted as saying by ESPN after the match. “I’d only be angry if Pepe publicly said what he did was not intentional after admitting privately that it was. Those who think he's a liar should say so and assume the consequences.
“It's your right to call him a liar if you wish to, but you must assume the consequences. It would be an issue between you and the person you accuse of lying.”
Pepe also made a statement, via Real Madrid’s official website, that it was an accident. However, he did issue an apology at the same time.
"I wish to say yesterday's incident with Leo Messi was unintentional, but I nevertheless want to apologise to him if he was offended because all I do is defend my team and this institution,” he was quoted as saying by the Guardian. “I give my heart and soul, and the thought of hurting a colleague has never entered my mind."
Usually it’s Pepe fouling Messi, so it was a little strange - refreshing even - to see the opposite happen during the most recent Clasico.
Hopefully for Messi’s sake, Pepe won’t be hungry to exact revenge when they meet again next season.
What do you make of Messi’s challenge on Pepe? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
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