In the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, luck sometimes plays as huge a part as talent does, and in the aftermath of Barcelona’s 2-0 defeat of Manchester City, it would seem Manuel Pellegrini has resorted to claiming that Barcelona got lucky and benefited from some very impartial refereeing.
If we were to believe all the accusations levelled against Barcelona these days, it would seem that Barcelona cannot get a victory unless they get help from the referee.
“The referee decided the game. Before the penalty, it was a foul on Jesus Navas when he was three meters from the play so he could see it,” claimed Pellegrini, who was also quick to note that, “It was not a penalty, it was outside the box.”
Claims like these have become the easy way out for many coaches whose teams have been defeated by Barcelona, and it is very shocking for someone like Pellegrini who is always diplomatic when his side loses to take the cowardly way out, failing to address the deficiencies of his plan, and choosing instead to attack the referee, who may have had a poor night, but in no way influenced the results of the game like Pellegrini seems to claim.
The simple fact of the matter is that this was a clash between the top two freest scoring teams in Europe this season. Manchester City came into the game with more goals in every competition in Europe than any other team, and Barcelona had the second most goals, but you would not have known that by watching the first 20 minutes of the game, where Manchester City decided instead to put numbers behind the ball, and hope to hit Barcelona on the break.
Chances in the first half came at a premium, and the first real chance of the game came in the second half when Navas, got robbed of the ball in the Barcelona half and Barcelona hit City with a swift counter led by Andres Iniesta who found Messi in space with a magisterial through ball.
Just before Messi could pull the trigger however, Martin Demichelis clipped him from behind, and the referee had no choice but to point to the penalty spot and show Demichelis a red card.
The initial reaction was that Navas had been fouled on the lead up to the penalty, but replays indicate that it was a pathetic attempt on the part of the Spaniard to con the referee, upon the slightest touch from Sergio Busquets, which the referee rightly ignored.
On the other end however, the initial reaction was that the foul on Messi was a clear red card, and penalty. Upon a closer examination of the incident however, it would seem the ref was wrong to award a penalty, but the red card would have stood nonetheless.
Make no mistake about it, even though the penalty decision was wrong, it was impossible for anyone at home, let alone the referee to tell during the live incidence that it was the wrong decision to award the penalty. Secondly, the penalty goal itself was not as detrimental to City’s hopes as the red card which was rightly shown.
In his post-match rant about the horrible officiating, Pellegrini conveniently forgot about the two big instances in which the referees made big calls that went in favour of City. In the first half, there was a legitimate penalty shout for Barcelona when a Barcelona shot came off a City defender’s arm which was sticking away from his body.
In the second half, an even more appalling decision by the referee occurred when Xavi played a nicely disguised pass for Fabregas behind the City defence, and the latter then rolled the ball across the goal for Gerard Pique to tap-in, only for the goal to be wrongly ruled offside.
It would seem that Barcelona was on the short end of refereeing decisions yesterday, and it is a massive shame that a classy coach like Manuel Pellegrini has embraced Mourinho’s shameless and cowardly way out of blaming the referee when his team loses a game fair and square.
Maybe the pressure and significance of the game got to Pellegrini, but in the end, there is no shame to losing to a Barcelona team who still remain one of the best in the world, and have more European pedigree than Manchester City.
Pellegrini should not feel that he has to justify losing to Barcelona, especially after the spirited performance by his team, even after going a man down.
He should however ponder over why the most free scoring team in Europe decided to sit back and let Barcelona dictate the game, when his team has proven that they can be just as lethal as Barcelona, if allowed to play their own game.
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