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Barcelona's Martino laments 'sad weekend' despite win

AFP, Monday 28 Apr 2014
Barcelona's Gerardo "Tata" Martino reacts during their La Liga soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona April 20, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
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Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said it had been an "extremely sad weekend for Barcelona and for football" after the death of former boss Tito Vilanova.

Vilanova passed away at the age of 45 on Friday after a more than two year battle with cancer of the salivary gland.

"Before everything, it is an extremely sad weekend for Barcelona and for football. I just want to send my love and support to Tito's family," said the Argentine, who replaced Vilanova when he was forced to resign due to ongoing health problems last July.

The Barca players honoured their former boss on Sunday with a stirring fightback from 2-0 down with 25 minutes remaining to maintain their slim chances of retaining their La Liga title with a 3-2 win at Villarreal.

Atletico Madrid continue to lead the way after their 1-0 win at Valencia on Sunday, four points ahead of Barca with three games remaining, including a clash between the two on the final day of the season.

However, Martino insisted that three points did little to console those who had lived through so much with Vilanova, both in his time as manager and as assistant to Pep Guardiola during a glorious four-year spell that yielded 14 trophies.

"We showed an ability to react, courage and spirit, which is what we needed to be able to remain in with a chance," said Martino.

"In this circumstance, though, to talk about football seems so futile and out of place. It is totally of secondary importance."

Barca captain Xavi Hernandez added that it had been difficult for the players to concentrate on the game, but dedicated the victory to Vilanova and his family.

"It was one of the most difficult days to play. The body didn't feel right, we have lost a reference of what Barcelona means and he will always be an example," he said.

"We showed pride to be able to win the game. We wanted to dedicate it to Tito and his family. It was our homage to him."

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