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Apr 3, 2012

Ibra hits out at Barca 'favouritism'

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has hit out at the perceived favouritism shown to former club Barcelona after they knocked AC Milan out of the Champions League.

• Barcelona 3-1 AC Milan
• Allegri rues penalties
• Champions League review
• Champions League gallery Photo Gallery

Barca won 3-1 at Camp Nou, with two Lionel Messi penalties proving crucial, and Ibrahimovic was furious with referee Bjorn Kuipers for perceived favouritism and the controversial award of a penalty when Alessandro Nesta pulled Sergio Busquets' shirt.

Ibrahimovic even went as far as to back Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, who has long complained that Barca get preferential treatment both in La Liga and in Europe.

After the game Ibrahimovic told Viasat Fotboll: "We got back to 1-1 and then we saw a penalty decision given against us that I cannot understand. The ball was not in play, but he whistled. It was an odd decision, a strange decision. It ruined the game.

"They don't need to be given favours. We're talking about the best team in the world. I'm starting to understand Mourinho's reaction every time he comes here. I've been through it myself now. I understand more and more."

Ibrahimovic also felt he might have been given a penalty when he was brought down in the area in the second half under a challenge from Javier Mascherano.

He added: "Also, I wasn't given a penalty. The referee was blowing for fouls every time you touched them. It was a shame. Had the referee given out decisions equally to both teams we'd have had a better chance. They did well, though - we shouldn't just complain about the referee."

Nesta, meanwhile, accepted that he had pulled Busquets' shirt but claimed he was fouled by Carles Puyol at the same time.

"I pulled Busquets a bit, but I was being blocked from behind by Puyol," Nesta told Sky Sport Italia. "It was a foul on me as well. At least from what I saw on the pitch, the referee awarded the foul before the ball was in play.

"In Italy they give many more fouls in general, whereas in Europe they give fewer fouls and more of these penalties for shirt tugs. I think the referee could've done a lot better tonight."

Massimo Ambrosini added: "In every level and on every corner things happen, but the interpretation changes from referee to referee. There is no uniformity. It takes some courage to make such an important decision in a tie like this. There are always going to be some tugs on set plays and always have been.

"We knew Barcelona are the strongest team in the world. We leave without regrets and there were differences between the teams over the two legs, but not all that much."

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola felt the officials had made the correct call.

"Ibrahimovic can say the same as Mourinho but we respond on the pitch. They were two penalties," Guardiola said. "They were fouls in the area and they were given so they were two penalties. This is what I have been taught since I was a child.

"If Ibrahimovic says it is thanks to the referees then fine, but we have qualified five times and the players speak on the pitch, which is where they should do their talking."

On his team's performance, he added: "In the first half, we played with three at the back to create more scoring opportunities, so by the end we had 21 shots on goal against three for Milan.

"We defended well and, after going 2-1 up, we returned to a four-man defence to control the game. Lionel Messi is a wonderful player and we have the great fortune of having him in our squad."

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