Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola reacted angrily at what he saw as the referee’s leniency toward English side Chelsea’s physical approach in their 0-0 Champions League semi-final first leg match on Tuesday.
Chelsea stood firm against a barrage from Barcelona at the Camp Nou to become the first side this season in the competition to stop Barca from scoring at home.
As expected, Barca took the game to Chelsea and enjoyed the vast majority of the possession but they were unable to find a way through to goal.
Petr Cech made a couple of important blocks from Samuel Eto’o and substitute Alexandr Hleb but too often Barca were restricted to strikes from distance.
“It is difficult to play against a team which doesn’t want to play soccer,” said 37-year-old Guardiola, who has worked wonders with the side since replacing the sacked Frank Rijkaard for this season.
“It was a game in which Chelsea had five defenders and the ball was always Cech to [Didier] Drogba and then backwards and forwards again,” he said.
“The result was fair, though, because neither side scored but there is something wrong when we ended up with the same number of yellow cards as they did and yet they committed 20 fouls compared to seven,” the former Barcelona and Spain playmaker said.
Guardiola, who cleared out stars such as Deco and Ronaldinho last summer, believed that German star Michael Ballack was fortunate to have remained on the pitch.
“Chelsea played very physically and I thought it was scandalous that [Michael] Ballack did not receive a second yellow card for a foul on [Andres] Iniesta on the edge of the area,” Guardiola said.
“That is something you would expect in any normal game during the season and it is these small details which did not go our way which will end up deciding the tie,” he said.
“Referees need to take an overall look at games and if that had happened then he would have seen that we were not the team which was fouling and we were looking to play soccer,” he said.
Barca were dealt a blow with the news that center-half Rafa Marquez is set to miss the rest of the season after picking up what appears to be a serious knee injury. His replacement Carles Puyol will also be absent from the return leg through suspension after being booked.
Eto’o said that there was hope for Barcelona as playing at home Chelsea will have to come out and attack.
“We had all the chances,” said the Cameroon marksman. “I would imagine they won’t be able to play in the second leg like they did tonight by sitting back in their half.”
Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink praised the character of his players for the way they stood firm and prevented Barca’s star-studded forward line from scoring.
“This was a good result but the tie is not decided yet and we have another very hard game ahead of us. It was not an easy match to play and we will have to improve in some areas for the next game but overall I am happy as we defended very well,” said Hiddink, who won the what was then the European Cup as coach of PSV Eindhoven in 1988.
Chelsea skipper John Terry conceded that Barcelona had had the majority of the chances but was delighted to have come away with the draw.
“We stayed very tight at the back,” said Terry, whose missed penalty in last year’s final handed victory to Manchester United.
“It was a fantastic performance and to not concede a goal is delightful. Hopefully going back to the Bridge we can use that to our advantage,” he said.