Mourinho sticks up for referee
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has backed referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz for his crusade against 'swimming pool artists' (divers).
Mourinho says his side's 1-0 win with 10 men at Espanyol on Sunday night was fully deserved and supported Mateu Lahoz despite the official's controversial second-minute dismissal of Iker Casillas at Cornella.
Casillas saw red after just 90 seconds for a foul on Jose Callejon just outside his area, but contact was minimal and the decision looked extremely harsh.
Mourinho was forced to hand a league debut to third-choice keeper Adan and Madrid were made to work hard to win all three points.
They did so thanks to a Marcelo strike midway through the first half and it would have been easier for the visitors had Emmanuel Adebayor not squandered three glorious chances.
Nevertheless, Mourinho was delighted with his side's effort, which saw them move to within five points of league leaders Barcelona with 15 games remaining.
"We worked hard and played well against a very, very good team," he said after the game.
"Espanyol are a strong side and they are very difficult to beat, even with 11.
"Many people watching on television would have been expecting us to lose after seeing Casillas get sent off, but we won, we deserved to win and we could have won by a bigger scoreline."
Despite the controversial decision to send off Casillas, which left his team in extremis at one of the league's most difficult away venues and with 88 minutes still to play, Mourinho praised referee Mateu Lahoz.
"I don't know if it was a red card or not - I haven't seen it," he said.
"But I like Mateu - he is a great referee and he lets the game flow.
"Referees can make mistakes, but I still maintain he is a great referee."
Earlier on this season, Mourinho claimed he wished Mateu Lahoz could officiate all of Madrid's games.
"I stand by that," he said.
"I like him because he doesn't have any time for swimming pool artists and in my team there are no swimming pool artists."
Madrid lost 5-0 at the Nou Camp in their last visit to Barcelona and had trailed Pep Guardiola's side by seven points coming into this weekend's fixtures.
However, tonight's gritty victory saw Mourinho's side close to within five points of Barca after the league leaders were held to a 1-1 draw at Sporting Gijon last night.
"Real Madrid never stop fighting and we never don't forget the values we are defending," sporting director Jorge Valdano said after the match.
"We are going to fight to win all of the competitions - we're prepared for that because the mood is good."
And Marcelo, whose goal proved enough to secure victory for Madrid, paid tribute to his side's collective effort in adverse situations.
"It was a massive effort from the team and the win is deserved," he said.
"We're working hard, training hard, and prepared to battle for the league."
Meanwhile, Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino was philosophical in defeat.
"We looked like we would have a good chance to win the match after Casillas was sent off, but we found it difficult in the first half and although we improved in the second half, it wasn't enough in the end," he said.
"But I'm happy with my players and we'll take the positives from this into our next match."