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Disappointed Milan officials have blamed referee Markus Merk for their Champions League semi-final defeat by Barcelona.

Milan were furious when the German referee ruled out a Andrii Shevchenko headed goal midway through the second half of their 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp, apparently for an innocuous-looking on Barca defender Carles Puyol.

“It was absolutely legal. He jumped and hardly touched Puyol,” said coach Carlo Ancelotti while club vice-president Adriano Galliani said:

“It was a balanced semi-final between two great teams both of whom deserved to win – too bad everything was decided by a refereeing error.”Barcelona went through 1-0 on aggregate.

Under Ancelotti Milan have reached three Champions League semi-finals in four seasons, winning the competition in 2003 and losing to Liverpool on penalties in last season’s final.

“We once again fought at the top level in the Champions League. We arrived 90 minutes from Paris. It happens, we will try again next year,” said Galliani.

“Now we will plunge into the (Italian) league again knowing that we are leaving Europe with our heads held high and our fans know that too,” he added.

Milan have cut Juventus’s lead at the top of Serie A to three points with three games remaining and continue their bid to overtake Fabio Capello’s side when they host Livorno on Sunday.

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