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By ESPN Staff

Mourinho: Sending off changed everything

Jose Mourinho insists the referee's decision to send off Asier del Horno condemned Chelsea to defeat against Barcelona.

Mourinho's Blues were beaten in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League knockout against the Spanish league leaders.

They played more than half the game with 10 men after Del Horno was controversially sent off for a foul on Barca's Lionel Messi in the 37th minute.

Mourinho said: 'The fact that we had to play 10 versus 11 when it should have been 11 versus 11 changed everything.

'To play with 10 is always difficult, even against a small team. Against a good team, of course it's more difficult.

'We had to face them again with 10 players - not for a small period of time.

'You can have the energy to do it for 10 or 15 minutes but to play for 50 minutes with one player less, it's difficult to close the door all the time. Sometimes doors open. That's the reality.'

Chelsea knocked Barcelona out at the same stage of the Champions League last year but only after losing the first leg 2-1 and having Didier Drogba sent off.

Mourinho said: 'At 11 versus 11, we beat them last season. At 11 versus 11, this game was open. At 11 versus 11, we were winning in Barcelona. At 10 versus 11 it is always difficult.

'It means you can't play a pressing game, you can't double up on the wing in defence, you can't defend deep. It means you are struggling.

'But I prefer to say I'm very proud of my players and the spirit from the fans. I prefer to go to Barcelona in a positive frame of mind.'

Chelsea went ahead in the 58th minute thanks to an own goal from Thiago Motta but John Terry scored past his own 'keeper to level.

Samuel Eto'o headed the winner, 10 minutes from time, but afterwards Mourinho accused Messi of conning the referee to get Del Horno sent off.

Mourinho said: 'Can Messi be suspended for acting? Barcelona is a very cultural city. You know all about theatre. You have theatres of high quality.'

The Chelsea boss is still annoyed that midfielder Michael Essien is missing the tie because UEFA issued a suspension for a foul missed by the referee in a group game against Liverpool.

Mourinho said: 'Essien was quite correctly suspended for it after the game.

'So what can we do now? Can we take back the red card from Del Horno? Can we revoke his suspension from the Nou Camp?

'We go there without Essien and without Del Horno. Do I send a `B-team' and concentrate on the FA Cup and the league?'

Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard insists striker Messi, 18, did not try to con Norwegian referee Terje Hauge.

Rijkaard said: 'I see fouls on Messi all the time and he is not a player to overreact.

'I prefer not to go into things said by other people. Every manager has a right to say what he thinks about any situation. I prefer to do my job.

'It was an important result for us in a special game. We showed a lot of maturity. It was not our best performance but the main thing was that we concentrated well against difficult opponents.

'We will take the game in the Nou Camp very seriously. We intend to finish the job there but it will still be difficult. We won't rest on our laurels.'