Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has begun the mind games ahead of the Champions League return leg against Barcelona by accusing Barcelona starlet Lionel Messi of “cheating” to get Asier Del Horno sent off in last night’s game at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea defender Asier Del Horno was sent off late in 36th minute for a crude challenge on Messi, who was accused by Mourinho of exaggerating his injury to influence the referee.
Barcelona went on to win the match 2-1 through a John Terry own goal and a Samuel Eto’o header after 10-man Chelsea had taken a surprise lead early in the second half when Frank Lampard’s free-kick was turned in by Barca defender Thiago Motta.
“How do you say cheating in Catalan?” Mourinho said after the match. “Can Messi be suspended for acting? Barcelona is a cultural city with many great theatres and this boy has learned very well. He’s learned play-acting.
“I don’t want to say too much because then I will be suspended, but I am very proud of my team.”
Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard defended Messi’s actions. “I see fouls on Messi all the time and he’s not a player to over-react,” said the Dutchman.
“It was an important result for us in a special game. The game was very tense with lots of media attention before it. We created enough chances to win but Chelsea’s goal helped us in a strange way.
“There was a distinct change in the mentality of our players after the goal. Before they were too tense to express themselves but they reacted positively.”