Pellegrini outraged as he accuses referee of Barcelona favouritism

David Cooper 19/02/2014
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Angered: Pellegrini felt the referee was 'not impartial'.

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is facing the likelihood of disciplinary action from UEFA after accusing Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson of lacking "impartiality" during the 2-0 defeat by Barcelona.

Pellegrini said Eriksson was "on Barcelona's side from beginning to end" and was trying to make up for a previous mistake against the Catalan side, and also questioned UEFA's decision to appoint an official from Sweden for the Champions League last 16 first leg match.

UEFA is likely to take a dim view of such comments – in 2011 it banned Jose Mourinho for five matches, reduced on appeal to three, for a similar rant when he was at Real Madrid.

Pellegrini's comments overshadowed a game which was decided by Lionel Messi's penalty, which led to Martin Demichelis' dismissal, and Dani Alves' last-minute strike.

The City manager claimed the foul by Demichelis was outside the box and that Eriksson – who has been selected by FIFA as one of the referees for this summer's World Cup in Brazil – should have given City a free-kick earlier in the move for a challenge on Jesus Navas by Sergio Busquets.

He said: "From the beginning I felt the referee was not impartial so he decided the game with a foul that he didn't whistle against and a penalty with Demichelis that was not a penalty, it was outside the box.

"He did not have any control of the game. He was on the side of Barcelona from the beginning until the end. I think it was not a good idea to put a referee from Sweden in charge of such an important match, especially a referee who has made an important mistake against Barcelona in a previous match."

Pellegrini appeared to be referring to the 2012 Champions League quarter-final, when Eriksson was criticised by then-Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola for failing to award his side two penalties.

"This referee whistled the Barcelona-Milan and he made an important error against Barcelona. Today he rearranged it," said the City boss.

Captain Vincent Kompany also claimed after the game that Barca were "in no way superior" to City and had been "there for the taking".

Cesc Fabregas, meanwhile, was delighted his Barcelona side could "prove a point" after Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho called the Catalan side "the worst Barcelona of many years".

Fabregas told ITV: "Maybe we had to prove a point in a way and I think we did it very, very well, but this team has done too much and won too much to always have to prove a point.

"Maybe everyone was saying Barcelona was not the same Barcelona…some people were talking a bit too much and as usual they will have to shut up for a few days.

"We are top of the league, we had a good result and we are in the final of the [Copa del Rey]. There's nothing else you can ask for."

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Ibrahimovich calls for focus after Leverkusen demolition

Ryland James 19/02/2014
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At the double: Ibrahimovic's spectacular second fired a warning shot across Europe.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has called on his Paris Saint-Germain team-mates to remain focused after scoring twice last night to leave his side on course for the Champions League quarter-finals after their 4-0 win at 10-man Bayer Leverkusen.

"I've played in fantastic teams so difficult to say, you can have a great team, but not win trophies, we need to finish the job first," said 32-year-old Ibrahimovic.

Blaise Matuidi put PSG ahead with barely two minutes gone before Ibrahimovic netted a penalty, then added a second when he unleashed a thunderbolt of a shot. Replacement Yohan Cabaye then added PSG’s fourth. 

Ibrahimovic's first then came when referee Viktor Kassai spotted Emir Spahic pulling down Ibrahimovic in the area, booked the defender and awarded the spot-kick, despite furious protests from the Bayer defence. Ibrahimovic slotted the penalty and then gave the guests a commanding lead from just outside the area after Matuidi found Ibrahimovic on the edge of the box and the Swedish star rifled a spectacular first-time shot into the top right corner.

Leverkusen, second only to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, suffered their third straight home defeat as Laurent Blanc’s PSG were rarely troubled at the BayArena with Ibrahimovic the architect of the victory with two goals in three first-half minutes.

The hosts' fortunes did not improve after the break as Spahic was booked again for holding back Lucas and sent off on 59 minutes. Matuidi’s replacement Cabaye then added a fourth with PSG players lining up as the Leverkusen defence was once again breached.


Speaking after the final whistle, Blanc praised the quality of his squad and their performance.

"I have an embarrassment of riches in my team at the moment," said Blanc.

"We rediscovered the football we showed in the group stages, it was better than we played at the start of the year and I was pleased to see it. The players did really well and I have to praise them for the performance.

"We didn't want to give Bayer any self-confidence and we tried to make sure they didn't get any of the ball. We kept trying to push forward even when they started getting physical trying to stop us."

Leverkusen boss Sami Hypia was less impressed with his own side's performance and acknowledged that the visitors were in a class of their own on the night.

"It's not easy to sit here after a performance like that," said the ex-Liverpool defender, whose team have lost their last three home games.

"We played against a good team and to be behind after just three minutes only made it harder. Paris showed how strong they are."

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Messi and Alves hand Barca the advantage over 10-man City

Alam Khan 19/02/2014
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Turning point: Demichelis trips compatriot Messi to give away a penalty and earn a red card.

Once again Lionel Messi rose to the big occasion as Barcelona snatched a priceless two-goal lead in their Champions League last-16 clash with Manchester City.

The Argentine rolled home his 338th goal for the Catalan club from the penalty spot in the 54th minute to break home hearts.

Messi and Barca had been kept quiet until the opener when the prolific frontman was brought down by Martin Demichelis, who was sent off.

With 10 men, City battled hard, but were crushed by a last-minute strike from Dani Alves that sealed a decisive first-leg victory.

With the Etihad sold out and the world watching, it was a spectacle to savour and Barca exerted the early influence by hogging possession.

Their passes were precise, the touches exquisite, but met with commendable defiance from the hosts. Although eager to make the most of home advantage, City knew it was vital not to concede. And when they stopped admiring and started playing, they almost stole a 15th minute lead.

Vincent Kompany picked out Alvaro Negredo in the Barca box with a raking pass and the Spanish striker’s control on his left foot was classy, but Javier Mascherano was attentive and cleared the danger.

The ‘Beast’, as he has become affectionately known by the City faithful, had terrorised La Liga defences last season and was proving a ferocious figure in a lone front role. He threatened again four minutes later when Kompany again slipped through a pass to David Silva, who in turn found Negredo alongside Gerard Pique.

The City striker went wide to shake off the centre-back, but chipped across goal from a tight angle and there was no one on hand to finish.

For all Barca’s breathtaking beauty on the ball, it was Manuel Pellegrini’s men who were penetrating the danger zone and served up a reminder of the attacking prowess that had produced 117 goals this season.

Victor Valdes and his defence did not look comfortable under high balls and the keeper was relieved to gather on the line after being troubled by a Silva free kick that was headed goalwards by Kompany. Negredo then tested him with a shot on the turn as there was an obvious increase in intensity and belief from City.

Barca were bewildered, but capable of brilliance at any second and showed it with Messi linking with Xavi in the 31st minute and firing over for their first attempt on goal. A second followed swiftly as Xavi drove powerfully from 30 yards and forced Joe Hart to push away.

It was frenetic and fiery with Negredo joining Dani Alves in the book and then Aleksandar Kolarov – a surprise starter on the left of midfield – yellowcarded for a studs-up challenge on Alves.It could have been red.

The atmosphere was electric, the action relentless as both sides pressed for the opener. It came after a moment that changed the momentum of the match. After Navas was denied a free kick for a challenge by Sergio Busquets on the right, Barca swept forward and Messi sneaked in behind compatriot Demichelis to take Andres Iniesta’s pass and home in on goal.

It prompted a desperate lunge from Demichelis that looked to be just outside of the box, but Messi went down and referee Jonas Eriksson gave a penalty and dismissed the defender. Messi rolled in the spot-kick and City’s task got even harder.

On came Joleon Lescott to shore up the defence and Samir Nasri to energise the attack, and it took a diving Busquets to block an effort from the Frenchman.

But Barca on the break were mesmerising and should have extended their lead, only for Xavi to blast over when well-placed and Alves drove inches wide after combining with Alexis Sanchez.

Credit to City, though, as they pushed for a leveller in the closing stages. Spurred on by a raucous crowd, Silva forced Valdes into a fine low save.

But Alves had the final say when he slotted home from close range and City face a mammoth task in the Nou Camp to overturn this deficit and reach the last eight.

Man of the match
Andres Iniesta

Supremely gifted and always seems to find time and space. He pulled Barca’s strings and, despite the tireless efforts of the home midfield to close him down, he set up Lionel Messi for the breakthrough which also brought the sending off that proved so costly for the English side.

Match verdict

There was always a concern about the veteran Demichelis being left isolated against Messi and so it proved. City had been determined and disciplined at the back until the moment the Argentine was caught out and brought down his compatriot. The space that exposed ultimately paved the way for the second which all but kills the tie.

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