Fri, Feb 24, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Chelsea players blame referee in red card incident

AGENCIES , LONDON

Chelsea's players were angry at having to play Barcelona with only 10 men because of what they saw as an error by the referee in sending off Asier del Horno during their 2-1 Champions League defeat on Wednesday.

Full back Del Horno was shown a straight red by Norway's Terje Hauge for dangerous play in an incident involving Barca teenager Lionel Messi near the corner flag five minutes before halftime in the first knockout round tie at Stamford Bridge.

"I can't say strongly enough that when you have a big match like this you need a referee who is up to it," Chelsea midfielder Eidur Gudjohnsen said.

"It was too big of a decision in a game like this ... Too much of the game was overshadowed by a refereeing incident. We would like to have a game [with Barcelona] when we have 11 players," he added, referring to the tie between the same rivals last season when they had striker Didier Drogba sent off in the first leg at the Nou Camp stadium.

Chelsea fought back then from a similar 2-1 deficit to win 4-2 at home and go through 5-4 on aggregate but they are well aware of the task facing them in the second leg on March 7.

Gudjohnsen and Argentine striker Hernan Crespo said it was tough enough playing a team of Barcelona's caliber with a full side without having to withstand them a man short. But Gudjohnsen recalled that Chelsea won at London rivals Arsenal two seasons ago to triumph in the quarter-finals.

"It will be difficult, but we did it at Arsenal two years ago so there's no reason why we can't do it again," he said.

Crespo added he did not have a close view of the incident but thought the referee might not have had any choice.

Messi leapt out of the way of an attempted tackle by Arjen Robben only to be clattered by Del Horno who caught him on the shins. Chelsea claim that Argentine international Messi then feigned injury and contributed to getting the Spaniard sent off.

"[Del Horno] didn't touch him from what I saw but maybe the referee couldn't overlook the move," said Crespo. "Inside, I get the feeling that it was a sending off although I think it was less serious than it looked."

Del Horno had been lucky earlier in the first half not to be booked for a studs-up lunge at 18-year-old Messi, who said: "That one hurt more than the other one for the sending off."

In Germany, Werder Bremen upset Juventus 3-2 with an injury-time goal from Johan Micoud.

The other two matches ended in 2-2 draws -- Ajax squandered a 2-0 lead at home to Inter Milan, and Villarreal conceded an 82nd-minute own-goal at Rangers.

In Glasgow, Scotland, Villarreal playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme scored with an eighth-minute penalty after Dado Prso had handled the ball.

Peter Lovenkrands leveled in the 22nd minute, beating Villarreal goalkeeper Sebastian Viera from the edge of the box. Diego Forlan restored Villarreal's lead in the 35th minute from a Rodriguez Gonzalo cross, but Juan Manuel Pena scored an own goal with eight minutes left.

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