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Pellegrini furious with 'biased' referee

ESPN staff
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Pellegrini: Referee was not impartial

Manuel Pellegrini has vented his fury at Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson, claiming the official "favoured Barcelona from beginning to end" as Manchester City's Champions League dream was left in tatters.

The manager lost his customary cool and launched a wide-ranging attack on Eriksson and his performance after his side lost 2-0 to Spanish side in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie on Tuesday night.

The game turned on a controversial penalty decision when City's Martin Demichelis was sent off for tripping Lionel Messi after conceding the spot kick, but television replays showed initial contact was made outside the area.

"The referee decided the game," Pellegrini said in a rant which could land him in trouble with UEFA. "Before the penalty, it was a foul on [Jesus] Navas when he was three metres from the play so he could see it.

"From the beginning I felt the referee was not impartial to both teams. So he decided the game.

"It was not a penalty, it was outside the box. The important mistake is the foul against Navas. The second mistake was the penalty. But it was from the beginning. Barcelona did not have chances before the goal. It was a pity because that important action decided the game."

Referees' bodies are highly sensitive to accusations of bias and usually defend their officials against such clear accusations.

In this case, UEFA is also likely to be unimpressed by Pellegrini's criticism of the body's selection of the referee with reference to his nationality.

Eriksson has 48 hours in which to submit his report from the game and UEFA will review Pellegrini's attack - and discussions with the official - in light of that.

"I told him [Eriksson] he decided the game," Pellegrini said. "I was not happy. He did not have any control of the game. He favoured Barcelona from the beginning to the end.

"I do not think it was a good idea to put a referee from Sweden in charge and a referee who made a mistake against Barcelona in the group stages.

"There is more important football in Europe than Sweden. A big game with two important teams, that kind of game needs a referee with more experience.

"This referee whistled the Barcelona-Milan game in the group and he made an important error against Barcelona. Today he remedied it."

Pellegrini, not for the first time in the Champions League, did not have a clear grasp of the facts. The episode he was referring to took place during Barca's quarter-final tie with AC Milan in 2012, with the Catalans claiming Eriksson had not awarded them two penalties.

However, his point was clear. "Playing 40 minutes with one player less is difficult against Barcelona," he said. "It was a very close game, a very balanced game.

"Barcelona did not have any chances until the penalty. Trying to score with one player less was very difficult but we had two or three options to do it.

"Yes, Barça had a lot of the ball but they had it where we wanted. They were not near our area so they did create. The referee from the beginning did not give a good impression."

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