Luis Enrique calls Barcelona's bookings at Malaga 'special' and 'curious'

Luis Enrique was as critical as he's ever been of a refereeing performance after Barcelona's title hopes were dented by a 2-0 loss at Malaga on Saturday.

A win would have moved Barca level with Real Madrid, who drew with Atletico earlier in the day, but goals from Sandro Ramirez and Jony sandwiched a Neymar red card and left the Catalan side three points back from the league leaders.

Neymar was given his marching orders for two bookings -- his first for fiddling with his boots and delaying a Malaga free kick -- and Luis Enrique questioned referee Jesus Gil Manzano's consistency when it came to his distribution of yellow cards.

"I think the interpretation of yellow cards is special," the Barca coach said when asked about Neymar's dismissal at La Rosaleda, having largely refused to be drawn into debates on match officials during his three years at Camp Nou so far.

"We have to take a lot of care in these types of games because I think there were ugly challenges from behind which clearly deserved bookings; other things such as tying your boots... If we book players for this, we have to book players for everything.

"It's curious that a team like us that doesn't usually kick people get so many yellow cards in such an incomprehensible manner.

"Then there are players on the other team that during the game commit fouls and don't get any cards. It's curious, but we're used to it."

Luis Enrique was also unhappy at the failure to award a penalty for a Charles foul on Sergi Roberto in the area at 1-0, with Gil Manzano instead giving a free kick on the edge of the box.

"I don't understand how the foul on Sergi Roberto was given outside the box," he added.

On a performance level, he felt his side did not deserve to lose at Malaga and even suggested the scoreline was unjust.

"The result was unfair," he said. "We tried everything, but it didn't come off. We had them pushed back and we made a costly error [for the first goal]. We created chances, but without getting any luck.

"We could have scored with the shot from [Luis] Suarez in the first half, the penalty not given on Sergi Robero, another chance in the second half also for Sergi Roberto. We needed to win but we didn't manage to do so."

Despite the loss, he refused to criticise his players, saying he was "delighted with their attitude" but he did admit it hurts their chances of retaining the league title.

"It makes [winning] La Liga complicated," he said, "but we will fight for it."