Ref cost us the game, says Pellegrini
MANCHESTER City manager Manuel Pellegrini risks a Uefa sanction after launching a scathing attack on the match referee after his side's 2-0 loss to Barcelona in the Champions League.
Barcelona took charge of the last-16 tie - thanks to a second-half penalty from Lionel Messi and a late Dani Alves strike - at the Etihad Stadium in Tuesday's first leg, and Pellegrini blamed match official Jonas Eriksson for his side's defeat.
In a wide-ranging attack, the City manager accused Eriksson of making two mistakes over the penalty decision and even questioned why a Swedish official had been given control of the game.
He also said Eriksson should not have been in charge because he had been criticised by Barcelona following his performance in their 0-0 draw at AC Milan in the quarter-finals of the 2011-12 competition.
Eriksson sent off City defender Martin Demichelis for bringing down Messi in the incident that yielded the 54th-minute penalty, and Pellegrini said: "The referee decided the game. Before the penalty, there was the foul on (Jesus) Navas, when (Eriksson) was 3m from the player, so he saw it without any problem.
"From the beginning, I felt that the referee was not impartial to both teams. The penalty on Martin Demichelis was not a penalty - it was outside the box."
Asked why he had spoken to Eriksson at the final whistle, Pellegrini replied: "Just to tell him that he had decided the game. He must be very happy, because he decided the game.
"He didn't have any control of the game. He decided for Barcelona from the beginning until the end.
"I think it was not a good idea to put a referee from Sweden in such an important match, and a referee who made such important mistakes against Barcelona (in an earlier match)."
When he was asked to explain his reservations about Eriksson's nationality, Pellegrini said: "There are more important football (nations) than Sweden in Europe.
"It was a big game with two important teams. I think maybe in that kind of game, you need a referee with more experience.
"I think the (biggest) mistake was to put a referee that damaged Barcelona in the stage of group (sic).
"This referee whistled the Barcelona-Milan game, and he made an important error against Barcelona. Today, he (atoned for it)."
With Pellegrini preoccupied by his gripes about Eriksson's performance, it was left to captain Vincent Kompany to vow that City had not given up on the tie.
"If the tempo was in this game, it would have been to our advantage," he told ITV.
"If the game is the same as today, and we manage to stay away from some fouls, we have got a chance."
Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino felt that the outcome of the game was "fair", but he warned against complacency ahead of the second leg at Camp Nou on March 12.
"I'm not necessarily confident (about going through), but it's true that we've done a good game in the away leg," he said.
"We just have to repeat the performance."
The media focus prior to the game had centred on the extent to which Barcelona have lost their mettle in the light of their 7-0 demolition by eventual champions Bayern Munich in last season's semi-finals.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho described Martino's side "as the worst Barcelona of many, many years", and Barca midfielder Cesc Fabregas said that he and his teammates were pleased to have silenced their critics.
"We had a point to prove, and we did it very well," he told ITV. "Some people were talking a bit too much before the game, and now they have to shut up for a few days."