Arsene Wenger Accuses Barcelona of Influencing Ref, Dani Alves Hails Team-Mates

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2016

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23:  Arsene Wenger the manager of Arsenal directs his players during the UEFA Champions League round of 16, first leg match between Arsenal FC and FC Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium on February 23, 2016 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Arsene Wenger accused Barcelona of influencing the referee with their theatrical antics in Arsenal's 2-0 home defeat to the Blaugrana on Tuesday.

The Gunners held off Barca's superb attack well for the majority of the UEFA Champions League last-16 first leg, but Lionel Messi eventually dealt the killer blows with two goals in the last 20 minutes, one of which was a penalty.

While Wenger does not believe refereeing decisions played a part in Arsenal's defeat, he did pick out a trend in Barcelona's reactions to going down, per Rik Sharma of Sport: "When they go down they shout. They never go down silent. It influences the referee, every time."

The Arsenal manager added: "I don't think we have lost the game because of the referee. We have to look at ourselves. Overall he (referee) has no major influence on the result of a game."

Mathieu Flamini brought Messi down to concede the late penalty, and there was little to complain about given how late the Frenchman's challenge was, per Coral:

However, there were moments in the match when Barca seemed to get the rub of the green on certain decisions, with Spanish football writer Graham Hunter and the Telegraph's Sam Wallace praising the Blaugrana for effectively "managing the referee," via BBC 5 Live.

Highlights of the Emirates Stadium clash can be seen below:

Arsenal now face an almost impossible task in turning the tie around in March 16's second leg at the Camp Nou, and a sixth consecutive last-16 exit looks inevitable for Wenger's side.

They were in the match for much of the game and had numerous chances to find the back of the net, per BT Sport Football:

They eventually paid for their poor finishing when Messi came up with his double, and Barca full-back Dani Alves praised his team for the character they displayed in north London, per Ed Malyon in the Mirror: "We've demonstrated that we've got some balls. And some character too. We've overcome all the challenges that they've put in front of us. Then it was quality that made the difference."

Indeed, it is not often that Barca are frustrated as they were on Tuesday. Arsenal's defence held firm against Europe's best side for three quarters of the encounter, per Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe:

Luis Enrique's side stayed patient and eventually got their reward, and they are now well on their way to sealing a spot in the last eight.

Barcelona cannot afford to be complacent in the return leg as Arsenal have plenty of quality in their squad and could cause nerves to jangle if they score early at the Camp Nou.

However, an efficient performance from Barca in three weeks' time should be enough to see them through to the quarter-finals as they bid to successfully defend their Champions League title.


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