'Shameful' Pepe slammed for stamping on Messi
The normally loyal Madrid-based sports papers rounded on Pepe on Thursday after the Real Madrid defender's stamp on Lionel Messi's hand during Wednesday's King's Cup quarter-final first leg defeat by Barcelona.
The behaviour of the Portuguese international, who was playing in an unfamiliar central midfield role, was "shameful" and "intolerable", Marca wrote in an opinion piece, while As columnist Luis Nieto said he deserved "general condemnation" and should be punished.
Pepe, who had been booked for a late tackle on Sergio Busquets, deliberately trod on Messi's hand about 20 minutes from the end of Barca's 2-1 comeback win at the Bernabeu in an incident apparently missed by the referee.
Image: Real Madrid's Pepe (right) challenges Barcelona's Lionel Messi during their King's Cup quarter-final first leg tie on Wednesday
'His problem is that he is a repeat offender'
His theatrical reaction after tangling with Cesc Fabregas earlier in the second half, when he rolled around clutching his face, also drew criticism.
"Violent, with excessive aggression, play-acting and a long way from what the behaviour of a footballer in a high-level match should be," Marca wrote.
"What's more, his problem is that he is a repeat offender," the paper added, recalling an incident at the end of the 2008-09 season when Pepe kicked Francisco Casquero while the Getafe player was on the ground, an action that earned the Portuguese a 10-match ban.
"The Casquero episode cannot now be seen as an isolated one but instead must be viewed as the sad reality of a player who goes beyond over-excited."Pepe might be an excellent person away from the pitch -- and he is -- but someone urgently needs to make him reflect and help him to correct these shameful actions."
Image: Real Madrid's Pepe (left) falls next to Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas during their King's Cup quarter-final first leg match on Wednesday
Real's dependence on counter-attack has failed to bear fruit
The outcry over Pepe's behaviour deflected some of the attention away from Real's latest failure against Barca, who host their arch-rivals in the second leg on Wednesday.
The Spanish and European champions' victory was coach Pep Guardiola's ninth win in 13 'Clasicos' since he took the helm in 2008 and came on his 41st birthday.
His only reverse was in last year's King's Cup final, when Cristiano Ronaldo netted an extra-time winner in a 1-0 victory.
Real coach Jose Mourinho, who told a news conference Pepe should be punished if the stamp on Messi was deliberate, was also subjected to severe criticism in Marca and As.
The former Inter Milan and Chelsea manager's tactic of allowing Barca to dominate possession and rely on swift counter- attacks had proved a failure and should be abandoned, As columnist Alfredo Relano wrote.
"Mourinho's latest pirouette was his worst," Marca's Santiago Segurola added.
"Spanish football has seen many teams with far fewer resources who have made life more difficult for Barca. And with greater nobility."Real's next game is a La Liga clash at home to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.