Luis Enrique, Andres Iniesta, More React to Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez Penalty

Christopher SimpsonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2016

FC Barcelona's Luis Suarez, left, reacts after scoring with his teammate Lionel Messiagainst Celta Vigo during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Barcelona manager Luis Enrique defended Lionel Messi following his remarkable penalty—in which he passed the ball to Luis Suarez rather than shoot—in Sunday's 6-1 win over Celta Vigo.

According to Javier Miguel of Sport, Enrique shrugged off claims the action was "disrespectful" by noting: "In this country a kick [on a player] is accepted more than flicks and tricks."

Here is the spot-kick in question:

Enrique added: "I wasn’t surprised, I was aware what they [Messi, Suarez, Neymar] were up to. 

"We already knew that all this would come [after]. I imagine it’s going to create a debate. But in any case, it’s a legal move. I think that it’s a famous penalty scored by [Johan] Cruyff in the past?"

On whether the move—seemingly a tribute to Barca legend Johan Cruyff, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in October and recently gave a positive update on his condition—was "provocative," Enrique said: "We all know who says that and why. We are the first to respect our rival and our motivation is to win through football. If someone scores a goal like this against me, I go to the middle of the pitch and get on with the game."

According to Pete Jenson for the MailOnline, Messi's team-mate Andres Iniesta told Barca TV: "I had never seen them do it but I had heard them discuss it. Perhaps it was for Neymar but Luis was there so he converted it."

Per Jenson, Neymar claimed the pass was intended for him, but the Brazilian is clearly holding no grudges against Suarez: "It was for me, we had practised it in training! Leo and myself had practiced but Luis was closer and he scored it. Our friendship is the most important thing. It doesn't matter who scores the goals just that we win the games."

Commentator Dan O'Hagan and beIN Sports' Andy Kerr believed the act was disrespectful:

So too did others, according to Spanish football expert Sergi Dominguez:

Celta Vigo manager Eduardo Berizzo did not feel disrespected by the penalty, though, per football journalist Dermot Corrigan:

Many welcomed the move, including Corrigan and fellow journalist Rafael Hernandez:

The win helped the Blaugrana maintain their three-point lead at the top of the table, while the scoreline also provided a healthy boost to their goal difference, which is now just three lower than Real Madrid's.

Barca—and in particular Messi, Suarez and Neymar—have produced plenty of breathtaking moments this season, and though the penalty has attracted much of the attention, Sunday's match was filled with thrilling examples of their flair and chemistry as a trio.

Regardless of their trophy haul come the end of the season, it's been a memorable campaign for the Catalan giants and their three brightest stars.