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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 10:49 GMT
Mourinho in a mess

By Jonathan Stevenson
BBC Sport at Stamford Bridge

Does Jose Mourinho believe it is impossible for Chelsea to lose without it being down to a mistake from an official or an act of cheating?

Barcelona's Lionel Messi is fouled by Chelsea's Asier del Horno
Del Horno kicks Messi into the air...

A year after criticising referee Anders Frisk's display in the 2-1 Champions League defeat in Barcelona, Mourinho is at it again.

This time, the Portuguese finger of fate is pointing squarely in the direction of Barcelona's teenage sensation Lionel Messi.

The Argentine was the victim of two rash challenges from Asier del Horno, the second of which prompted a straight red card from referee Terje Hauge.

True, it probably should have been a yellow card, but Del Horno was very lucky to escape a caution for an earlier knee-high tackle on Messi.

Sure, Messi was cute enough to make the most of Del Horno's recklessness with a few well-timed rolls in front of the officials, but the damage was already done.

Not so, says the special one: "How do you say cheating in Catalan?"

Classic Mourinho. But this time, the Portuguese should be embarrassed by his comments. After all, what goes around, more often than not comes around.

It is only 17 days since English football widely condemned Blues winger Arjen Robben for theatrically diving to get Liverpool keeper Jose Reina sent off in a key Premiership encounter.

There is little doubt that Robben's acting was greater than Messi's, yet Mourinho accused Reds boss Rafael Benitez of sour grapes for bringing up the incident in his post-match analysis.

Maybe, in the cold light of day, Mourinho will be able to reflect on a courageous performance from his players instead of deflect attention on to an 18-year-old.

It is certainly a display that gives Chelsea plenty of hope for the second leg in Spain.

Few teams would still be in the contest after playing for over 50 minutes with 10 men against a wonderfully talented Barca side - let alone have the temerity to take the lead while a man down.

Referee Terje Hauge shows Aiser del Horno a straight red card
...and is sent off by Terje Hauge

Perhaps Mourinho's frustration is because he can see the Champions League slipping away for the second time in a row.

Last year, he had the assistant referee to blame for allowing Liverpool's goal to stand when Chelsea claimed it had not crossed the line.

This year, he has cast Messi as the villain of the piece and the architect of their downfall should Chelsea fail to overturn their deficit in Spain.

But there are so many positive aspects of Chelsea's performance at Stamford Bridge for Mourinho to believe his team can still go through.

They created a host of good chances with 10 men - including a gilt-edged one for Didier Drogba with the score at 1-1 - and until the last 20 minutes matched their illustrious opponents in every department.

So why does there always have to be an excuse for losing a game like that?

It is a shame that the culture in football deems it a necessary rather than an occasional after-match reaction.

Are the stakes too high and the rewards too great for managers to be gracious in defeat anymore?

After the pre-match pantomine surrounding that awful pitch, it is a pity that, once again, people are talking about events outside the game.

They should be disecting another wonderful game of football between two of the best teams in the world.

Were you at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday? Do you agree that Mourinho needs to take defeat on the chin and concentrate on getting Chelsea through the return match at Barcelona? Let us know your thoughts.

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Chelsea 1-2 Barcelona
22 Feb 06 |  Europe


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