Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho had harsh words for German referee Wolfgang Stark despite seeing his side secure a 1-1 draw with Lyon in the away leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Tuesday.
Bafetimbi Gomis’ well-taken volley in the 83rd minute enabled Lyon to avoid losing to Real for the first time in seven encounters, after a Karim Benzema goal had appeared destined to consign his former club to defeat.
Benzema struck barely a minute after replacing Emmanuel Adebayor in the 64th minute, but the incident that attracted Mourinho’s ire occurred moments earlier.
Having previously hit the post with a free-kick from wide on the left, Cristiano Ronaldo saw a second attempt from an almost identical position strike the arm of Yoann Gourcuff in the Lyon wall.
Mourinho leapt from the bench to complain at Stark’s failure to award a penalty and he returned to the incident in his post-match press conference.
“It’s difficult to be a referee and there are errors in matches that are due to fatigue or slowness to react. These are the errors we have to accept,” Mourinho said.
“After, there are other errors that you can’t accept. There was a free-kick and in the slow-motion replay you can see it clearly. I was 50 yards away and I could see it. He [Stark] was 5 yards away with all his assistants and he didn’t. I don’t understand,” he said. “It could still be decisive in the tie. I just hope it won’t be.”
Despite his reservations about the referee’s performance, Mourinho conceded that Real were well placed to end a seven-year wait to make it beyond the first round of the knockout phase.
“Of course I’m hopeful, but everything is open,” he said. “Lyon are a good team with good players and a good coach. They have European experience. The second match will be hard, but it’s 1-1, we will be at home and, just as it was here, the stadium will be behind us.”
“At kick-off we will be in a strange situation because we will be almost qualified, but there will still be lots of work to do,” he said. “We won’t be scared though. We’re not afraid of history because we’re writing a new history. We scored here [Stade Gerland] for the first time and we got a draw here for the first time.”
Real made a strong start to the second half, with Sergio Ramos finding the crossbar with a header moments after Ronaldo had rattled the post, but the nine-time champions were second-best for much of the opening 45 minutes.
Lyon’s best opportunity of the first half saw Gomis shoot over an open goal after Iker Casillas had pushed away a Michel Bastos cross and Lyon coach Claude Puel lamented his side’s failure to drive home their early dominance.
“At home in the first leg, we would have preferred them not to score. It’s a bit of a shame, especially because we played a great first half,” Puel said.
“At times we were a bit lacking in the final ball, be it the final pass or the final shot. We didn’t start the second half well. We allowed them to get on top a bit too much and that coincided with a good spell for Real but after 15 minutes we got going again and finished much more strongly than them. It’s good to have competed with such a strong team, but winning the match would have been good,” he said.
“In the first half they created very few chances. We were less solid defensively at the beginning of the second half, but we were able to pull the game back at the end. It will give us confidence ahead of the return leg, even though we would obviously have preferred not to have conceded a goal to them,” Puel said.
CHELSEA VS COPENHAGEN
If Chelsea are to salvage their season by winning the Champions League, Nicolas Anelka showed with both goals in a 2-0 victory at FC Copenhagen on Tuesday that he could prove to be the unexpected trump card.
The Frenchman, expected to slip down the pecking order when Fernando Torres arrived in a blaze of ￡50 million (US$80.95 million) hype on deadline day, took his total in this season’s competition to seven goals in an assured last 16, first leg win.
Didier Drogba was meanwhile left on the bench and, with Torres still searching for the sharpness that has eluded him all season at Liverpool and Chelsea, Anelka produced the goods to smooth a path toward the quarter-finals.
A comfortable victory over a Copenhagen side appearing rusty from their mid-winter break has lifted some of the pressure that was beginning to mount on Carlo Ancelotti after a Premier League slump that has seen them go from top to fifth.
So impressive was Anelka in sub-zero temperatures in the Danish capital that the question over whether Torres and Drogba can strike a partnership was rendered redundant.
Since arriving at Chelsea from the Bolton Wanderers three years ago, Anelka has shed his sulky image and provided excellent value for the ￡15 million outlay.
In his first full season, he scored 25 goals in all -competitions followed by 15 last term to help secure the league and FA Cup double.
His brace in Copenhagen took him to 16 for this campaign and briefly deflected the focus from Torres who showed only glimpses of his best from before being substituted late on.
Asked about his team selection, Ancelotti said Chelsea had “the best strikers in Europe” and Drogba was tired after playing in their bruising FA Cup fourth round replay defeat by Everton on penalties on Saturday.
“They are fantastic strikers. Didier played two hours against Everton, Torres and Anelka were fresh,” Ancelotti told reporters, dismissing suggestions Ivory Coast striker Drogba had not taken the decision well. “He [Drogba] was good, no problem. He focused with the other players on the game.”
A potentially tricky tie versus a side that gave as good as they got against Barcelona at Parken -Stadium during the group phase was ultimately made comfortable after Anelka seized on former Chelsea winger Jesper Gronkjaer’s mistake to fire his side ahead in the 17th minute.
Anelka made it 2-0 after 54 minutes with an almost replica finish after being played in by Frank Lampard and despite a few flurries by Copenhagen they were able to coast home.
“We lost to a better team, they were stronger than us and we made too many technical errors,” Copenhagen coach Stale Solbakken told reporters.
A good night for Chelsea got better as news of Tottenham Hotspur’s Premier League defeat at Blackpool filtered through — a result that leaves Ancelotti’s team two points shy of the Champions League places for next season with a game in hand.
Europe’s blue riband competition is a prerequisite for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich who opened his wallet again last month to sign Torres and defender David Luiz for a total of about ￡70 million.
However, the single-minded Anelka, a relative bargain, proved he has no intention of being cast into the Stamford Bridge shadows just yet.
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