Belfast Telegraph

Barcelona hit back at Arsenal excuses

By Sam Wallace

Barcelona last night condemned Arsenal for playing without “joy and ambition” in their Champions League tie.

Robin van Persie, meanwhile, was told that the only injustice surrounding his dismissal was that it did not come sooner

Xavi led the criticism of a team so often lauded as Barca's footballing cousins but last night accused of producing the same anti-football in the Nou Camp as Jose Mourinho's Internazionale last year.

“It surprised us that they did not play with more joy, more attacking flair,” Xavi said.

“They had a one goal advantage and they set themselves up to protect it but it did not work out for them. The result was not a real reflection of the tie over two legs — we dominated both games.”

Former Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano echoed the sentiments: “It would have been unjust if they had gone through without having a single shot on goal. We won 3-1 but it could have been four or five.

“It seems, as far as some people are concerned, Barca never win because of football — it's always because of the referee.”

Arsene Wenger's fury with the referee is likely to cost him after both he and Samir Nasri were yesterday charged by Uefa and face a hearing on March 17 for using “inappropriate language” towards Massimo Busacca as tempers flared on the final whistle.

Barca's Danny Alves said Van Persie's red card was deserved.

“He had already lost it in the first half with me. Things got very heated and in the second half the referee was just applying the rules,” he said.

“If he blows the whistle and you still shoot then it is a card. He had to go. Even when Van Persie was on the pitch they had not tested our goalkeeper. Blaming the sending off is an excuse. We were the only team creating chances.”

Manager Pep Guardiola said after the victory: “Arsenal did not string three passes together,” while Andres Iniesta accused the Gunners of letting football down with their performance.

Iniesta said: “They were defending with six players. Their plan was to play everyone at the back and yet they have the players to play a different kind of football.”

Sergio Busquets was unhappy with the referee’s display.

“If we start analysing the referee then we should be the ones complaining,” he said.

“There was a penalty on Messi and there was also what Van Persie did to Alves. If anything should disappoint Arsenal it is not the ref but how little ambition they showed. Why did they come here only to defend?”

Cesc Fabregas and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who has damaged finger ligaments, will miss Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Manchester United.

Fabregas said: “Fifteen minutes into the second half I felt a pinch at the back of the leg and I knew the game was over for me.”

Manuel Almunia, who replaced Szczesny during the game, added: “Even at 3-1 we only needed one goal. But we were tired. Barcelona bossed us and we had players that were not able to run any more.

“And down to 10 men, well, it was double the effort. Barcelona are the best in the world and that's football.”

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