Zabaleta at a loss over red card as City crash out 4-1 on aggregate to Barca
Meanwhile, in Paris, PSG complete the job against Bayer Leverkusen
Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta claimed he didn’t know why he had been sent off as his side were dumped out of the Champions League by Barcelona in a 2-1 defeat at the Camp Nou which saw the Catalans progress 4-1 on aggregate.
The Argentine was dismissed for a second yellow card with the score at 1-0 with 12 minutes remaining after City had a strong penalty appeal waved away when Edin Dzeko appeared to have been felled by Gerard Pique.
City equalised on the night via Vincent Kompany, before Dani Alves made it 2-1 for Barca in the final couple of minutes, but the damage to the visitors’ chances of going through had already been done when Lionel Messi killed off the tie with the opening goal 23 minutes from time.
“I don’t know why he sent me off. It was a clear penalty and the referee is two metres away from the incident,” Zabaleta said.
“There was a clear foul on Dzeko too in the build-up to Barca’s first goal, which he gave as a free kick to Barcelona.
“In the heat of the moment I ran towards him, but I didn’t show any lack of respect because I couldn’t say anything given I was on a yellow card.”
Defeat means City bow out of a second competition in four days, having suffered an embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Championship side Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup on Sunday.
However, Zabaleta said they had shown enough in their performance at the Camp Nou to suggest they stand a real chance of winning the Premier League title for the second time in three years.
“It was a very even game. They had good moments and so did we, but the team that makes the most of their chances is the one that deserves to win, so in that sense it is a fair result,” he said.
“We are obviously hurt to go out because we are a team that aspires to win every competition, but that is football. Now we need to reduce the gap in the Premier League. We are nine points off Chelsea but we have three games in hand.”
Barca have also suffered on the domestic front of late as they have fallen four points behind Real Madrid in La Liga thanks to three defeats in six games.
And coach Gerardo Martino is hoping beating a team of City’s calibre will re-energise his team for the final two months of the season.
“It is clear it hasn’t been an easy week, but it is also true that our opponent could have gone much further in this competition. We had to suffer, but that is why you live for the Champions League,” he said.
“They were two very hard games and we won them both. That means the players have done well collectively and individually. It wasn’t just about going through, but to do so in the manner we did. That could strengthen us for what is to come, but the league still depends on how we react.”
There could be more bad news to come for City as their top scorer this season, Sergio Aguero, had to be replaced at halftime due to a hamstring strain and will undergo a scan today.
“I felt something in my left leg in the run with Messi at the start of the game,” said the Argentine. “I tried to continue, but at halftime I didn’t want to run any more risks.”
In the night’s other game, Paris Saint-Germain conceded an early goal but rallied past visiting Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 for a 6-1 aggregate win.
Sidney Sam scored for Leverkusen in the sixth minute in Paris, but Marquinhos tied it in the 13th and Ezequiel Lavezzi got a go-ahead goal in the 53rd.
PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu saved Simon Rolfe’s penalty kick in the 28th after Christophe Jallet tugged Eren Derdiyok’s jersey as he ran into the penalty area, earning a yellow card. Leverkusen’s Emre Can was ejected in the 68th for his second yellow card.
PSG coach Laurent Blanc, who rested several regulars, felt his team eased up after the opening leg.
“It’s all well and good saying to the players forget the first game, but it’s true that subconsciously you tell yourself you’ve got a bit of a cushion,” he said. “But there were players out there who don’t play that much, and you have to show your best level. The Champions League is a level above, and I was expecting more from my team.”