‘He was a disaster’: Xavi laments ‘really bad’ referee in Barcelona’s Champions League elimination to Paris Saint-Germain

‘He was a disaster’: Xavi laments ‘really bad’ referee in Barcelona’s Champions League elimination to Paris Saint-Germain


Barcelona manager Xavi blamed his team’s Champions League exit to Paris Saint-Germain on Romanian referee István Kovács, whose performance in Tuesday’s quarterfinal second leg he labeled a “disaster.”

Leading 3-2 after an electric first leg in Paris, Barça took the lead but eventually lost 4-1 on the night and 6-4 on aggregate as Ronald Araújo’s first-half red card changed the tie.

Barcelona looked to be well on its way to the semifinals when Raphinha opened the scoring early on from close range after brilliant work from teenager Lamine Yamal.

However, the tie was turned on its head when Blaugrana defender Araújo was shown a straight red card for bringing down Bradley Barcola as he was bearing down on goal.

It was certainly a contentious decision, with Araújo making minimal contact with Barcola before the French forward threw himself to the ground.

That was the first of 12 cards, including three reds, that Kovács showed on a night the Romanian quickly lost control of the match.

PSG made its numerical advantage count five minutes before the break as former Barça man Ousmane Dembélé silenced the home crowd with a goal into the roof of the net.

Xavi was shown a red card in the second half.

Vitinha’s brilliant low strike early in the second half leveled the tie, before two goals from Kylian Mbappé, the first a penalty after João Cancelo had clumsily brought down Dembélé, sent PSG through to the semifinals for the third time in five seasons.

“We are annoyed,” Xavi said, per ESPN. “The red card marked the tie. We were well organized 11 vs. 11. It completely changed everything. For me, it’s too much to send [Araújo] off there.

“The referee was really bad. I told him he was a disaster. He killed the tie. I don’t like speaking about referees, but it has to be said. I don’t understand it. It’s not good going down to 10 players, and from that point on, it’s another game. For as much as we speak [about the match], the red card marks everything.

“We had the chance to equalize with [Ilkay Gündogan] hitting the post and could even have made it 2-0 before the red card with [Robert Lewandowski’s] shot which went just over. It’s just a shame that the hard work of an entire season ends because of one refereeing decision. I would have liked it to be 11 vs. 11 for the whole game. It’s an unnecessary red,” added Xavi, who is stepping down at the end of the season.

CNN has offered Kovács a right of reply via UEFA.

Kovács certainly appeared eager to thrust himself into the limelight and show a card at every apparent opportunity he could, including a red card for Xavi and his goalkeeping coach José Ramón de la Fuente in the second half.

PSG manager Luis Enrique, who enjoyed two trophy-filled spells at Barcelona as a player and manager, said he thought his team would have won even without Araújo’s sending off.

Enrique won a historic treble with the Blaugrana as manager in the 2014-15 season and was in charge of the Barça team that produced one of the all-time great Champions League comebacks against PSG in 2017.

Kylian Mbappé's two goals sealed victory for PSG.

“We started the game really well and the feeling when they score, after a brilliant piece of play from Lamine Yamal, is a bit like the first leg,” Enrique said. “We didn’t deserve to lose last week and we didn’t deserve to be behind tonight.

“But the faith and the belief from the players was exceptional. From there, we grew into the game. Obviously, the red card is a factor, but you still have to know how to play these games and not make mistakes.

“I honestly think without the red card, we still win, although I can’t prove that.”

PSG will now play Borussia Dortmund for a place in the Champions League final after the German side mounted a comeback of its own against Atlético Madrid to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit with a 4-2 home victory on Tuesday.


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