Javier Mascherano dismisses Arsenal complaints
Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano insists his side were deserving winners of their Champions League last-16 tie with Arsenal.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger felt his team would have progressed through to the quarter-finals of the competition but for the controversial second-half dismissal of Gunners forward Robin van Persie by referee Massimo Busacca.
At that point the score in last night's second leg at the Nou Camp was 1-1 after a Sergio Busquets own goal had cancelled out Lionel Messi's opener for Barca, leaving Arsenal holding a 3-2 aggregate lead.
However, Barca turned the tie around with two goals in a three-minute spell midway through the second half, Xavi levelling things up on aggregate before Messi's penalty decided things in favour of the Catalan giants.
Wenger was convinced Arsenal would have won the game if Van Persie had not been dismissed, but Mascherano believes Barca were worthy victors and pointed to the statistics to back up his case - Arsenal failed to register a shot all night and had significantly less possession of the ball.
"Wenger has every right to his opinion, but the statistics say that it would have been very unfair if we hadn't qualified having not received a single shot on goal," Mascherano was quoted as saying by Marca.
"It was unusual that it was 1-1 without them having had a shot. Wenger knows how the game was, it's tough to lose and nobody likes to be knocked out."
He added pointedly: "Barca always win due to the referee, never because of their play, not because they had 19 shots on goal, or for having 74% of the possession or completing 900 passes...
"Lets not be hypocrites. We didn't allow them them to breathe, that was the key. We played like Barca and that's why we qualified."
The former Liverpool man added: "I'm proud of how the team stayed true to their philosophy during the game. At times when teams have to force the win they lose their identity, but it wasn't like that. It could have been 5-1 or 6-1 because we had very clear goalscoring chances."
Mascherano played his part in the victory with a crucial late intervention to deny Arsenal substitute Nicklas Bendtner a great opportunity, although the Argentinian preferred to praise his team rather than accept individual plaudits.
"I don't feel a saviour. I did my job. We've qualified for what the team has done together and not for any special action. For me it's the team and not the individual," he said.
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