A furious Arsene Wenger is confident his Arsenal side would have beaten Barcelona but for what he described as an ’embarrassing’ decision by the referee to send off Robin van Persie.
Barcelona qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League after winning 3-1 on the night and 4-3 overall, with Arsenal having travelled to the Nou Camp with a 2-1 advantage.
Although Barcelona dominated possession and were a constant threat, the score was 1-1 before the dismissal of Van Persie for a second bookable offence after shooting when the referee had already blown his whistle.
“We came back into the game and I am convinced that we would have won it,” said Wenger, who confronted referee Massimo Busacca in the tunnel following the final whistle.
“I have just spoken to people from UEFA who are shocked as well, you could understand if it was a booking for a bad tackle but quite frankly it was embarrassing to lose a game in that way.
“Even if he did hear the whistle it was the wrong decision in a game like that. Maybe the Spanish fans and newspapers will think differently but people who have played football won’t understand it.
“I am frustrated by the decision of the referee, it is difficult to understand why he would make a decision like that to kill a football game.
“Barca are good enough to win in a noble way and you just want to be given the chance to play them fairly.
“We lost to a very good Barcelona side and so congratulations to them but I am disappointed because I did not expect it to happen.”
Asked if the dismissal was one of the worst calls to go against him as a manager he replied: “I would put it differently, if you have played football at a certain level you wouldn’t make a decision like that.
Wenger told Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola he could congratulate the referee at the end of the game, but the Spaniard was scathing at the idea that the referee changed the outcome of the match.
“He had his five minutes of glory (Wenger in his press conference) and I am having mine. They didn’t manage to have three passes in a row during the whole game but if he wants to think that they lost because of that they he is entitled to do so,” said Guardiola.
“A knock-out game at this level is going to be close but I don’t think that we deserved to be only drawing 1-1. We were on top when it was 11 versus 11 and we were on top when it was 11 versus 10.