Celts not alone in referee protest...

NEIL LENNON'S nemesis ref Alberto Mallenco is at the centre of a new storm in Spain after Athletic Bilbao protested at him handling their Basque derby clash tomorrow.

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Mallenco has also upset Bilbao
Mallenco has also upset Bilbao

Mallenco enraged Lennon and Celtic by refusing to give the Hoops a penalty for what they insisted was manhandling in the box in their Champions League defeat to Juventus last week.

Athletic will meet great local rivals Real Sociedad tomorrow night and Mallenco will be in charge – his first game since the Parkhead controversy.

But it's not only Celtic who don't rate the whistler – Bilbao can't stand him.

They have won just four times in the 26 times in 13 seasons he's refereed their games in La Liga.

And they didn't want him as the referee in such a vital clash, a plea which was ignored by the Spanish FA.

The last time he took charge of the Basque derby, he awarded Real Sociedad a penalty for a handball that was subsequently proved by TV pictures to be from a Sociedad player.

And Bilbao ace Andoni Iraola admitted they aren't looking forward to seeing Mallenco again.

He said: "We fear the worst with him, but we just have to get on with it.

"It's true he is not exactly a lucky charm for us, but we always try to help and be fair to the referee at this club and will do so again in the derby."

If Mallenco were to send a Bilbao player off, he would be continuing an amazing trend for Sociedad – they have seen an opposition player sent off in each of the last eight games they have played.

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