Barcelona falls to Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg

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The referee was the focal point as Barcelona fell to Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey matchup.

Goals from Aritz Aduriz and Inaki Williams downed the Catalans, while a free-kick from Lionel Messi gave Barcelona life heading into the second leg.

There were a number of key refereeing decisions that led to the result. The most scrutinized was a pretty awful no-call in the first half after a challenge by Xabier Etxeita that left Neymar in a heap in the penalty area, but instead the referee shook his head.

Later, the referee was back in the spotlight after he sent off both Raul Gardia and Ander Iturraspe of Athletic in the second half for questionable second yellow cards. Despite the two-man advantage, Barcelona was never able to level things up. There was also a heated exchange between Aduriz and Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti which saw them both receive yellow cards.

Despite all this, Barcelona only had itself to blame. The second Athletic goal, from Inaki Williams in the 27th minute, came from absolutely nothing, when Jordi Alba gave the ball away and the hosts pounced swiftly, as Aduriz delivered a back-heel to Williams who hammered the ball with blistering pace into the back of the net.

The two will play the second leg at the Camp Nou on January 11th.