Valencia almost had the three points in the bag on Thursday night, leading 0-1 away at San Mamés against Athletic Bilbao, thanks to a goal from Rodrigo de Paul. However, two key decisions which proved highly controversial lead to the Basque side earning a 1-1 draw.
As such, the Valencia team and their local media are feeling most aggrieved on Friday morning, with referee Fernando Teixeira Vitienes very much in the spotlight. Valencian sports newspaper SuperDeporte even went as far as to title their report: "Teixeira didn't want Valencia to win." - holding the errors of the match official as being directly responsible for Valencia not collecting all three points.
The first of the controversial decisions from the referee involved Nicolas Otamendi, the powerful central defender frequently linked with a move to Manchester United by outlets such as the Express. In the 83rd minute of the encounter, and with Valencia still leading, the Argentine challenged for what looked a 50-50 ball with Athletic player Mikel San Jose.
The 27-year-old Valencia man seemed to make contact with the ball first but, as the boots of both players clashed, they both went to ground injured. The two sets of players then shared angry exchanges and in the midst of the melee, the referee produced a straight red card for Otamendi while he was still in pain on the ground.
The following video highlights that particular incident:
In his post-match report, referee Teixeira Vitienes noted: "In the 83rd minute the player (23) Nicolas Otamendi was dismissed for the following reason: Challenging for the ball with an adversary, with his foot raised to stamp with excessive force, striking his opponent's leg."
However, the video evidence seems to show something quite different, which has lead to further criticism for the referee from SuperDeporte in their print edition on Friday morning, running with a front page claiming: "As well as being bad... He's a liar!"
The decision to dismiss Otamendi wasn't the only one to anger Valencia. Just to rub salt into their wounds, with the game into stoppage time and beyond the 90-minute mark, Athletic striker Aritz Aduriz netted an equaliser, but from an offside position.
The two controversial decisions from the referee, along with the two points lost at San Mamés, lead Valencia president Amadeo Salvo to lambaste the match official, declaring: "Teixeira must apologise. He must apologise because he has nothing to lose. He's only playing for his pride." - Indicating that the erroneous decisions had directly affected the outcome of the game.
Valencia manager Nuno Espirito Santo also added: "It's disgraceful... There were too many moments of injustice. The players are angry, because their efforts have clearly been prejudiced by refereeing decisions."
Although they remain in fourth position in La Liga, the points lost by Valencia mean fifth-placed Sevilla are just a point behind them in the battle for a Champions League finish.
Meanwhile, and after a poor start to their campaign, Athletic Bilbao are now in eighth, five points behind a possible Europa League spot for seventh - if they lose the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona and can't return to Europe via that route.