Gerard Pique’s handball was instinctive, says Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde believes the handball which resulted in Gerard Pique’s sending off against Olympiakos was instinctive.

Valverde’s saw his side ease their way past the Greek side despite having only 10 men for more than half the game, as Pique saw red two minutes before the break in Wednesday night’s 3-1 win at the Nou Camp.

The defender was booked early on for a cynical pull back on Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe and he received a second yellow card when referee Willie Collum decided he tried to deliberately score with his hand from a Gerard Deulofeu cross.

“Pique? I haven’t seen the replays, but I’d imagine it was all instinct, with the goal so close to him,” Valverde told Football Espana.

Pique’s dismissal came with the score at 1-0 after a Dimitris Nikolaou own goal had set the five-time European champions on their way to a third straight win in Group D.

Despite their numerical advantage, Olympiakos were unable to cause Barcelona problems and Lionel Messi took the game away from them in the space of three second-half minutes. First scoring with a lovely curling free-kick and then teeing up Lucas Digne for the third goal.

“We knew they’d get stronger once we went down to 10 men. That’s why we needed to find a second goal, so things would become easier,” said Valverde.

“They came to defend and find a goal on the counter-attack. With our opponents playing so deep, it was tough to find rhythm and they played a game that suited them.

“But he (Messi) splits the game up and looks for players to link up with. When he’s heading towards goal, he always looks for team-mates to finish off his moves.”

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