Athletic Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz insisted his stamp on Neymar during Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Barcelona “was just a moment in the game”.
Aduriz pulled a goal back for Athletic with only a minute of normal time remaining in their Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg, but his attacking efforts were overshadowed by an incident with Neymar, in which he treaded on his fellow forward, but he made it clear any contact was accidental.
“The game was over, everything was over. I didn’t try to hurt anyone, everything stays on the pitch,” he said after the game.
“I stepped over [Neymar] but I had no intention of scraping my foot along him, it was just a moment in the game and something which happens on the pitch.
“He’s a world-class star so we have to congratulate him. I sometimes wish his attitude was a bit different, but he’s a top player.
“They’re a very good side, it’s a good challenge to play against Barca.
“They had two chances in the first half which were able to convert, while we weren’t able to.
“We had chances but just weren’t able to turn them into goals.
“We were very prepared for all outcomes. When you play against Barca, you must always be aware of what’s going to happen.
“We continued to attack at the death but just weren’t able to score any more in the end.
“The second leg will be difficult but it’s a great challenge and we’ll try to get through.
“I won’t say anything about the referee.”