Sweden too small to referee big football games
Jonas Eriksson, Sweden's FIFA listed referee at this summer's World Cup in Brazil, was accused last night of being biased in favour of Barcelona to compensate for his alleged past mistakes when officiating a previous Champions League tie involving the Catalans. Sweden was also said to be too small a football nation to officiate in the knock-out stages of the Champions League.
The accusations came from Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini after Sweden's top official awarded Barcelona a disputed 54th minute penalty and a red card for City's Martin Demichelis following his trip on Lionel Messi. Barcelona went on to record a 2-0 win at Etihad Stadium which puts them in great shape to go through after the last 16 return leg at Camp Nou, on 12 March.
Manchester City's usually calm Manuel Pellegrini could not hide his anger in a post-match press conference. Looking back to Barcelona's goalless Champions League clash against AC Milan in the San Siro two years ago, when Jonas Eriksson rejected two strong penalty appeals from the Catalans, Pellegrini alleged that the Swede was rectifying his alleged mistakes when ruling that Martin Demichelis had fouled Messi inside the penalty area and not just outside. The Chilean said: "He refereed Barcelona against Milan and made an important error against Barca — tonight he remedied it.
"Before the penalty it was a foul on [Jesús] Navas when he [Eriksson] was three metres from the play so he could see it. From the beginning I felt the referee was not impartial to both teams. So he decided the game. And after it was not a penalty, it was outside the box.
"He favoured Barcelona from the beginning to the end. I think it was not a good idea to put a referee from Sweden in charge and a referee who made a mistake against Barcelona in the group stages.
Asked by a reporter why Jonas Eriksson's nationality was important, the City manager said: "There is more important football in Europe than Sweden.
"This was a game with two important teams and it needed a referee with more experience."
Manuel Pellegrini, who confronted Eriksson at full-time, will no doubt receive censure from UEFA and be banished to the stands for the return leg.