Madrid's Pepe apologizes for Messi foot stomp

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MADRID (AP) -- Real Madrid's Pepe has apologized to Lionel Messi for stepping on the Barcelona forward's hand in his team's 2-1 loss in the Copa del Rey, saying that it wasn't intentional.

Pepe told Real Madrid's website Thursday that "as far as the play with Leo Messi, I want to say that it was an involuntary act."

The Portuguese defender added that "even so, if Messi is offended I ask his forgiveness because I want to defend my team and club ... It never passed through my head to cause harm to a fellow professional."

Pepe received a yellow card early in Wednesday's 2-1 loss when he barged into Sergio Busquets, but the referee did not penalize him for stomping on Messi's hand when the forward was on the ground in the second half.