• Champions League

Pellegrini apologises for Barca ref rant

ESPN staff
February 21, 2014
UEFA are looking into Manuel Pellegrini's post-match comments © Getty Images

Manuel Pellegrini has apologised to UEFA, referee Jonas Eriksson and the people of Sweden after criticising the official following Manchester City's 2-0 defeat to Barcelona on Tuesday.

Moving to clarify his comments, Pellegrini insisted he never questioned the referee's integrity and did not argue that a Swedish official was not able to take charge of a Champions League game of that magnitude.

Pellegrini believes Eriksson should have awarded City a free kick for a challenge on Jesus Navas seconds before Martin Demichelis brought down Lionel Messi, resulting in a red card and a penalty, which Barcelona's record scorer converted to break the deadlock.

Though he still feels Demichelis' challenge took place outside the box, Pellegrini admitted he was upset when he lambasted Eriksson in his press conference.

"When you lose a game the way we lost against Barcelona, you are frustrated, you are angry," said Pellegrini. "Maybe I said some things I didn't mean in that way so I apologise for what I said.

"Also I want to clarify what I said: I didn't make any serious accusations about anyone, not about the referee, not about UEFA, not about anyone. I said the referee decided the match because he decided the match. He didn't give us a foul against Navas and after came the penalty against Martin Demichelis and we had a player sent off.

"In this case, [Eriksson had] very bad luck also because a lot of times the referee didn't give a foul and it didn't always finish with a penalty and a sending off.

"I always say, and I said a couple of weeks ago, refereeing is a very difficult profession because they have only have a fraction of a second [to decide] and after they compare their decisions with eight television cameras. It is not my way to act to criticise the referee.

"He decided the game, but not with the intention of benefiting Barcelona or damaging Manchester City. He was in a bad day with very bad luck because he is mistaken in that foul that decides the game but we saw after on TV that it was a foul and it wasn't a penalty [although it was] maybe very near the edge of the box.

"But I didn't say he was a bad referee, that he was not honest, that he cannot referee in UEFA [competitions]. That was the first thing I want to clarify.

"The second thing is that maybe it was better for so important a game to have another kind of referee, because he was always refereeing in the Swedish league. That is another thing I don't think.

"It is not an offence to Sweden or the Swedish people or referees. Sweden is a country that has a lot of good players, they have one of the best in the world in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and it can also have a good referee.

"I am sure this is a good referee because UEFA are always evaluating all the referees and if he is not a good referee, he is not in the UEFA staff.

"But I didn't say any serious accusation about Sweden, just that it was not the most important league in Europe and that is not an offence, I think."

Pellegrini felt Eriksson should not have been awarded the game because of controversial decisions he made in Barcelona's 2012 meeting with AC Milan.

He added: "The third thing I said was that it was not a good idea that a referee that damaged Barcelona against Milan referee the game because if the same thing happens in the Barcelona box and Barcelona lose the game 1-0 with that penalty and [have] one player sent off, all around Barcelona they will say the same referee who made that mistake against Milan did it again against Barcelona. But I am not in charge of referees.

"I repeat, I didn't have any serious accusation, not against UEFA, not against the referee, not against Sweden, not against anyone so it was my way of thinking and I was angry."

Pellegrini, who is waiting to hear whether UEFA will charge him for his comments, insisted the referee was not biased against his side, but felt his decision-making was different.

He argued: "I felt from the beginning his criteria was not the same for both teams. I think he had a bad day - everyone can have a bad day - but I didn't say that intentionally he didn't give fouls for us or did give fouls for Barcelona."

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