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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 28, 2007

Barca boss Rijkaard plays down red card

MADRID, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard played down the significance of his red card and Ronaldinho's rare start on the bench after watching the side secure top spot in Champions League Group E on Tuesday.

Goals from Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi earned Barca a 2-2 draw away to Olympique Lyon. Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho only came on for the last 20 minutes.

Ronaldinho has been in the headlines for his patchy form and identified by Spanish media as the possible 'black sheep' that Edmilson had referred to when criticising team mates for their lack of commitment last week.

He had pulled out of Saturday's squad hours before their Primera Liga match at home to Recreativo Huelva complaining of fatigue.

'We have a big squad without a fixed starting 11. All the players accept they may be substitutes and he accepted it well,' Rijkaard said.

'At halftime, I asked him if he was up to coming on and he said he was and was very enthusiastic and motivated.'

Rijkaard has also been questioned in the media over his handling of dressing room disputes and the side's poor away form.

Just before the hlaftime break in Lyon, he earned his first red card as Barca coach for some uncharacteristic haranguing of the referee following a heavy challenge on Messi.

'I wasn't highly-strung. I only wanted to catch the referee's attention for an action that merited a red card that hadn't been signalled,' Rijkaard added.

'I knew it could have consequences. When no ones sees play that could injure people, someone has to say something. I think the referee was a little fairer in the second half.'

Barca are assured of the top spot in Group E. They lead second-placed Rangers by four points with one game left to play at home to VfB Stuttgart next month.