Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini could face disciplinary action from soccer’s European governing body UEFA after comments he made about Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson after his side’s 2-0 Champions League defeat to Barcelona. The Chilean claimed the Eriksson was not impartial at the Etihad Stadium and pointed to some important decisions that he thought were wrongly awarded to the Catalan club.
One decision that particularly irked him was when City’s Martín Demichelis was adjudged to have fouled fellow Argentine Lionel Messi inside the penalty area. However, replays showed that contact was first made outside the box before Messi fell in it. Demichelis was red-carded and Messi then converted the penalty to make it 1-0 to Barcelona. Although City were outplayed in terms of possession, at 0-0 they were still in the game and looked dangerous on the break. However, going 1-0 down and losing a man gave Barcelona more impetus.
Pellegrini, who before the game praised Barcelona as the “most important” and “best team” in the world over the past five years, vented his frustration in the post-match press conference. He even went a step further and claimed that a referee from Sweden should not have been allowed to officiate such a big match. When he was pressed by a journalist on the relevance of the referee being Swedish, Pellegrini implied refereeing games in Sweden do not compare to games of this stature. He said such a game required a more experienced referee. Many pundits in the game believe Eriksson may have thought he “owed” Barcelona after he failed to give the team any big decisions when they met AC Milan a few years ago. Pellegrini also complained that Jesús Navas was blatantly fouled and warranted a free-kick. However, his claims were waved away by Eriksson.
UEFA is now waiting on Eriksson to make a formal complaint about the comments before they make a decision to formally charge Pellegrini. If Eriksson does complain and UEFA finds Pellegrini guilty, he is likely to face a fine and possible touchline ban for a set number of matches. Now City and Pellegrini must wait to see what happens because he could face disciplinary action for his post-match comments.
This is not the first the man in charge of a Barcelona Champions League fixture has faced criticism. Eriksson’s fellow Swede Anders Frisk was accused by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in 2005 of meeting with then Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard at half-time during the Champions League clash. Frisk and his family subsequently faced death threats from Chelsea fans, forcing him to quit the sport. UEFA took the unprecedented step of calling Mourinho “the enemy of football” as it attempted to persuade Frisk to change his mind. Frisk was on the game’s top officials at the time and is still considered as one of the best and most-liked referees to have ever graced the game.
Although Pellegrini’s comments appear far less barbed and controversial than Mourinho’s accusations, the former Real Madrid boss could face disciplinary action, which could result in a fine and touchline ban. If Eriksson does complain and UEFA acts fast, one option available is to ban Pellegrini from patrolling the touch-line in the second leg in Barcelona.
By Robert Shepherd