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The Spain international claimed that Jose Manuel Pinto was guilty of a clear hand ball and accused referee Jose Luis Gonzalez of not having the 'courage' to blow his whistle

Valencia forward Roberto Soldado believes that comments made by Barcelona president Sandro Rosell about match officials before Wednesday's Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg influenced the performance of the referee during the game at Mestalla.

Rosell had claimed that the Catalans had seen a number of big decisions go against them so far this season and expressed his hope that things would even themselves out during the remainder of the campaign.

Barca enjoyed a massive stroke of luck 18 minutes into their 1-1 draw with Los Che when referee Jose Luis Gonzalez failed to spot that the visitors' goalkeeper, Jose Manuel Pinto, had handled the ball outside the area.

Soldado has now claimed that Pinto's offence was clear and suggested that the match official had elected to give the Barca man the benefit of the doubt because of Rosell's outburst.

"Here when our president speaks and complains about referees it is not taken into account," the striker is quoted as saying by Marca.

"But it would not surprise me if the words of Rosell influenced the referee's decision not to whistle for the hand ball.

"It's a very clear hand ball that has been able to affect the game. It was in front of the referee and he did not have the courage to whistle."

With Barcelona skipper Carles Puyol having cancelled out Jonas' 27th-minute opener, the tie is now delicately poised ahead of next Wednesday's second leg at Camp Nou.

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