Gary Neville labelled the referee 'a joke' after Valencia's defeat to Athletic Bilbao
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 29/02/16 7:00am
Gary Neville labelled referee Jesus Gil Manzano "a joke" after Valencia were beaten 3-0 at home by Athletic Bilbao in La Liga.
Gil Manzano waved away two penalty appeals from Los Che, one for a challenge by Xabier Etxeita on Andre Gomes in the first half and the second for a handball by Etxeita as he blocked a second-half header from Alvaro Negredo.
Sabin Merino opened the scoring for Athletic on 72 minutes with Iker Muniain and then former Valencia striker Aritz Aduriz notching further goals to condemn Neville's side to their first defeat in five games in all competitions.
The Englishman insisted he did not blame the referee entirely for the defeat, but certainly gave a damning assessment of the official from Badajoz.
"Today, I thought the referee was a joke. It was embarrassing we didn't get two penalties," Neville said at his post-match press conference.
"I've not blamed referees in any of our games, but I thought his management of the game was awful. Some of the things he did were incredible.
"We've been a very soft coaching staff towards referees, we've tried to be respectful because we know its a difficult job, but I don't understand how we didn't have one of two penalties, one for Andre Gomes, the other for the handball.
"I don't have a clue. And he booked three of our players and I don't know how many fouls they had compared to us.
"There were three factors in the defeat: first the referee, secondly we missed chances, and third, we didn't react to conceding the first goal."
Despite suffering the biggest home defeat since he took charge of Valencia, Neville said he was encouraged in many ways with his team's display against Athletic, who they will face twice more over the next fortnight, in a Europa League last-16 tie.
"I enjoyed watching us play, we were a team that looked confident, we looked like we were a team in control, and Bilbao had problems with us," he said.
"I was amazed we didn't go 1-0 or 2-0 up, I was amazed we didn't get a penalty. It feels like a terrible day and it is, but it wasn't the story of the day for me.
"It's difficult to explain why these things happen, we were so confident and we were playing so well, the goal shocked us and we tried to score again immediately, rather than trying to settle down.
"We just thought maybe a little too desperately, that's the only criticism of our performance. There's no suggestion what we did after the first goal was throw the towel in."
Neville will try to make sure the nature of the defeat does not knock his team off course after they won all of their four previous games.
"Every defeat and every win affects your psychology," Neville added.
"I've told the players to watch the first 70 minutes and look how well they played, then to watch the next eight minutes and learn from them.
"We leave here with a bad feeling, but I'd argue that was the best we played in the first 70 minutes. The problem is we haven't taken our chances.
"If we had, we'd be sat in a very different mood. You have to be clinical, and we weren't."