Arsenal were ‘betrayed’ by referee against Barcelona

Robin van Persie’s red card in the Nou Camp was ‘an embarrassment’

ROBIN Van Persie said he feels Arsenal were ‘betrayed’ by the refereeing decision that saw the Gunners’ striker sent off as Arsenal exited the Champions League in Barcelona.

Van Persie was sent off in the Nou Camp when he was deemed by the referee Massimo Busacca to be wasting time by taking a shot on goal after the whistle had sounded, resulting in a second bookable offence and red card.

The 56th-minute decision, made when the score was 1-1 and 3-2 to Arsenal on aggregate, was widely criticised on the night and afterwards Van Persie questioned the thinking of Swiss official Busacca, who had earlier booked the Dutchman for a clash with Barca full-back Daniel Alves.

“I think it was a total joke, the sending-off. How can I hear his whistle with 95,000 people jumping up? How can I hear it? Please explain that?”, said Van Persie.

“I can’t understand the view from the ref. One second from his whistle to my shot is a joke. He has been bad all evening, a joke all evening. He was against us. I don’t know why he was here tonight, it’s a joke.

“We feel betrayed, almost. We tried really hard. When it was 1-1 it was all to play for. But, in my opinion, the ref killed the game.”

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Those thoughts were echoed by manager Arsene Wenger, although the Gunners’ boss did concede that Barcelona had dominated the game up to that point, having levelled the tie on aggregate on the stroke of half-time through Lionel Messi.

“I felt Barcelona gave a lot in the first half where we were completely dominated, I agree with that, said Wenger. “But in the second half, you felt there was more space and, I knew, like in the first game, we would come back into the game. Overall I am convinced we would have won this game if it had stayed 11 versus 11.

“Once we were down to 10 men it was very difficult. We had a very difficult first half. Barcelona played, a little bit, a poker game by giving absolutely everything in the first half. After that, it became difficult with 10 men against 11. I feel Barcelona are good enough to win in a normal way against anybody. You want to be given a chance to play a normal football match.

“Everybody has the same regret in our dressing room. I felt with the fighting spirit my team showed we deserved to have the chance to see with 11 against 11 who goes through.”

And the Frenchman pulled no punches in his assessment of Busacca, whose decision to send off Van Persie had viewers scratching their heads.

“Two kinds of people can be unhappy; those who love Arsenal and those who love football can be frustrated with the referee’s decisions,” said Wenger. “When he made the decision it was a very promising game, very interesting. That’s the regret.

“We lost against a very good Barcelona side, congratulations to them and good luck for the future. We have many regrets because we didn’t expect to lose the game like that. I feel sorry for people who watched the game.

“If you have played football at a certain level, you cannot understand the decision. It’s impossible. I cannot imagine that someone who has played football, in a game of that importance, makes that decision at the moment he did and the way he did it.

“Even if he heard the whistle, I still don’t understand the decision. It killed a promising, very interesting football match. What for? If it’s a bad tackle and a second-bookable offence then OK. But the way he did it, frankly it’s embarrassing if you love the game.

Wenger could end up in hot water with Uefa after his criticism of Busacca, although the Gunners boss claimed that a member of European football’s governing body had agreed with him after the game.

“I spoke to Uefa people, and they are shocked as well,” said Wenger. “It killed a promising, fantastic football match. Wenger will be without goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford, while the fitness of his captain Cesc Fabregas was also in question after he was substituted.

Fabregas admitted on Twitter that the moment he handed Barcelona the chance to score the opening goal was “one of the worst moments of my life,” and apologised to Gunners’ supporters.

However Jack Wilshere, who was one of Arsenal’s better players on a night they were totally outshone by the Spanish champions, commented:

“We have to pick ourselves up now. Win Saturday and then keep going strong in the league... still could be our year.”