Barcelona win behind closed doors

Club protests against clashes during Catalonia referendum

Barcelona win behind closed doors

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat Las Palmas 3-0 in a match played behind closed doors after the Spanish league refused Barca’s plea to postpone the game on the day of the highly-charged Catalonia referendum.

At least 91 people were injured as Spanish riot police fired rubber bullets and forced their way into activist-held polling stations over the independence vote deemed illegal by the Spanish government on Sunday.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said the club made the decision to play behind closed doors as a protest against the violent clashes rather than security concerns.

“FC Barcelona condemns the events which have taken place in many parts of Catalonia today in order to prevent its citizens exercising their democratic right to free expression,” Barcelona said in a statement.

“We have done it behind closed doors so that everyone can see our opposition at what is happening,” added Bartomeu.

In a statement, La Liga insisted “there was no motive for the game to be abandoned”.

Had Barca refused to play the game they could have faced a three-point deduction from La Liga on top of forfeiting the match against Las Palmas.

“La Liga’s refusal to cancel the game and play it another day... would mean the loss of six points for the team,” said Bartomeu.

A section of Barcelona fans’ groups had threatened a peaceful pitch invasion to show their disgust at events at the polling stations if the game was not suspended.

Despite the closure of the stadium, one fan did make it onto the pitch after Barca’s second goal before being quickly hauled off by stewards.

Huge queues of fans waited outside the 99,000 capacity Camp Nou for hours until a final decision was made less than 30 minutes before kick-off. A Barca spokesperson confirmed that all fans who bought tickets would be reimbursed.

Barcelona opened up a five-point lead at the top of La Liga and moved 10 points clear of Real Madrid.

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