Cristiano Ronaldo's temper continues to get the better of him at Real Madrid, and it could prove costly in the Spanish team's pursuit of the league title.
The Portugal forward scored both goals in Sunday's 2-0 victory over Malaga before being sent off for an elbow smash that broke the nose of defender Patrick Mtiliga. The dismissal was Ronaldo's second of the season and will see him banned for at least one game. The first came against Almeria in December for intentionally kicking out at a player.
"He who understands football knows my intention is always to play. That red card is an embarrassment. I don't understand these types of things," Ronaldo said. "That isn't a red [card] here or in any other place in the world, and I'm not saying that because I want protection. Here in Spain there are a lot of good things, but also bad ones."
While Mtiliga came off with blood flowing from his nose and will now miss three weeks, Ronaldo expressed dismay at the decision.
"You have to be fair when looking at what happened. I didn't mean to harm him," Ronaldo said. "I've seen worse incidents than that in other games."
Madrid director general Jorge Valdano said Mtiliga was tugging Ronaldo's shirt and believes referees need to do better.
"A referee should know who's doing something for the 'show' and who's doing something to interrupt it," Valdano said. "When [Ronaldo] was grabbed from behind, he tried to break free because he always has the intention of playing, while others would throw themselves to the ground and simulate a foul."
Ronaldo could be banned for up to three games just when Madrid needs his goals, with rival Barcelona in great form.
The defending Spanish champions have won their last three matches by a combined 12-0 score to finish the first half of the season unbeaten with a five-point advantage over Madrid.
Madrid plays at Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday at El Riazor stadium, where it has lost six straight times and hasn't won in nearly two decades. It will be without leading striker Gonzalo Higuain, who has 11 goals, and Ronaldo, who has nine.
Barcelona, meanwhile, travels to Sporting Gijon where it won 6-1 last season.
Ronaldo said he spoke to Mtiliga after the match.
"I went to see him in the changing room and he knows my intention because I told him," Ronaldo said.