By Suhas BhatFollow @@suhasrbhat
For those not in the know, Barcelona were down 2-1 with less than 20 minutes left against Sevilla at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. Despite holding an eight-point lead over arch-rivals Real Madrid, dropping points at this juncture was not an option - especially with El Clasico looming on the horizon.
Why? Remember last season? Arguably the best Real side in history (all least statistically) had a ten-point lead over Barcelona in February and many thought it to be enough for Jose Mourinho to win his first La Liga title. But Barca just don't know how to give up and had they won El Clasico in April, they could have whittled the deficit down to a meagre one point.
Ultimately, it was not to be as Cristiano Ronaldo scored the crucial goal in the 2-1 win despite Real struggling to maintain possession. Pep Guardiola watched on from the sidelines as the possibility of winning four consecutive domestic titles disappeared. To add insult to injury, they were eliminated from the Champions League by Chelsea a few days later.
But this incident was not about Real or Barcelona. It was not about the league title either, even if both those concerns may have motivated Fabregas to attempt the unpardonable.
Instead, it was about demonstrating sportsmanship and being professional enough to lose gracefully.
The referee was busy calming tensions following a minor scuffle inside the box between players from both sides. Fabregas was understandably flustered and had openly criticised the Sevilla players for not giving him the ball, earning Medel's ire. The defender came to warn Fabregas to keep a lid on his frustrations and motioned his head towards the Barcelona player, committing what looked like a headbutt. Fabregas took it as an opportunity to get the referee's attention and have Medel sent off for violent conduct.
It is difficult for even the neutral to not be drawn towards Barcelona, so hypnotic is their play, but on this occassion it was hard not to root for Sevilla.
Hedwiges Maduro's spirited defending in keeping Lionel Messi quiet and Alvaro Negredo's lone wolf turn up front were especially admirable. However, the Rojiblancos visibly deflated after the sending-off, and further goals by Fabregas and David Villa condemned them to a 3-2 loss.
While Barcelona were undoubtedly the better side towards the closing stages of the game, they did not deserve the win as Sevilla matched every attack and unlike most other sides that play the Catalans, were not content to simply park the bus.
But what viewers of the match may not have known is that Medel was a marked man even before the game. You see, Medel was arrested for making death threats to a 20-year-old football fan in June and his feisty temper on the pitch has made him an infamous player, even during his stint at Boca. Being aggressive is a necessary component for a defender but the 24-year-old has yet to acquire the focus needed to not let his emotions get ahead of him.
Some may consider it to be a stretch if a claim is made that Barca players deliberately target individuals in this manner. Indeed, short of getting an all-access pass to the Camp Nou locker-room, it may be impossible to truly verify such an allegation. But the slogan "mes que un club" is increasingly been taken too far.
Returning to Fabregas, it's rather disappointing to note that the model player at Arsenal resorted to such an action in order to help his side. It has been reported recently that the former Arsenal captain and one of the lynchpins of the successful Euro-winning Spain national team is struggling to win the respect of new coach Tito Vilanova and only a recent injury to Andres Iniesta has earned him a place in the first team.
It was Iniesta himself who claimed Fabregas has the "Barca DNA", in an interview prior to the 25-year-old's move to the Nou Camp last year. The phrase of course refers to Barcelona's attractive playing style - but amongst those who don't follow the Catalans, the same phrase also refers to a tendency to play act when things aren't going their way. On Saturday, Fabregas seemed to embrace that dark side.
Indeed, at first glance I had initially assumed that Sergio Busquets, a player notorious for such actions, was the player responsible for getting Medel sent off but the replay shocked me by zooming in on Fabregas' face.
Fabregas, for his part, insisted Medel deserved the red card as he told reporters in the post-match press conference: "There's contact because he gets my face and, in the world of football, it's the intention that matters most. There's no reason to talk about it. In football these kind of plays are straight reds."
He went a step further next and stated: "If you want, I'll imitate what Medel did on you and then you can tell me if it's a red card."
Barcelona fans are on Fabregas' side and teenspirit, one of the more logical commenters on our match report, stated: "It was a headbutt by Medel on Fabregas' face which was totally uninvited or unacceptable and Fabregas' action was totally justified. Imagine you yourself being hit on the face don't you hold it for a while? Did you want Fabregas to kick Medel at that very moment and start a brawl? At least, he did not go to the ground what he did was just covered his face and backed up."
Long-time visitor Maverick was far more critical of our coverage as he stated: "I love how this and every other article written on ESPNstar makes it look as if Barca are a bunch of cheats. Then people come, read such poor sports journalism and get influenced because it gives them a really good reason to blame someone else for their team's defeat."
But the truth is that Fabregas made the most out of a favourable situation. There will be different interpretations of the incident, of course but from our point of view the game does not deserve such wanton cheating, be it committed by a player from Barcelona, Real or Pune FC.
Spurred_Up_Tonight summed it up aptly as he stated: "I really feel for Sevilla. Barca made a great comeback but had Busquets been sent off or Sevilla not reduced to 10 men (both harsh decisions in my view), this result would have been a lot different. Barca were really shackeled around; they made their most decisive moves after the red card. Hearty congrats to Barca but Sevilla deserved to win this game especially after the heart they showed and the effort they put."
All in all, it was a rather disappointing prequel to the upcoming El Clasico.