Martin Demichelis: Was the foul on Lionel Messi inside or outside the box? The footballing world have their say

Key incident occurred in the 53rd minute of Barcelona's 2-0 victory at Manchester City in the Champions League last 16 first leg

Was it a penalty, or should it have been a free-kick?

The foul by Manchester City's Argentinian defender Martin Demichelis on his compatriot Lionel Messi in City's 2-0 home defeat by Barcelona has polarised opinion in the footballing world, with some arguing that because the initial contact occurred outside the box it should have been a free-kick, not the penalty which opened the scoring.

Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager launched an attack on the Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson after the match, accusing the official of "lacking impartiality".

"The foul from Demichelis is outside the box, it's not a penalty. The important mistake is the foul against Navas. The second mistake was the penalty. But it was from the beginning. Barcelona did not have chances before the goal. It was a pity because that important action decided the game," Pellegrini said. "I think in the whole match we didn't have a referee with impartiality to both teams."

"I told him [Eriksson] he decided the game," the Chilean added. "I was not happy. He did not have any control of the game. He favoured Barcelona from the beginning to the end."

Dietmar Hamman, the former Liverpool midfielder said on Sky Sports: "Demichelis brought Messi down and it's a sending off. It should have been a free-kick but it's very hard for the referee see. The contact is six to eight inches outside the box and sometimes you have to have sympathy for the referee."

"They shouldn't have had the penalty but later Gael Clichy played Cesc Fabregas onside for Pique's 'goal' - and that should have counted.

"So I don't think City can say they were hard done by, because there was no doubt about the sending-off and if this goal went in, Barcelona may well have put the tie to bed."

 

Robbie Savage, speaking to BBC Five Live,  agreed that the first contact was outside the area, but said that the margin was "very, very close".

"I think that is a free-kick, the first contact was just outside the penalty box. But it was very, very close - and it certainly was a red card.

"It was a huge call before the game to play Martin Demichelis," the former Wales international said. "The incident all came from some theatrics from Jesus Navas, when he lost the ball by throwing himself to the ground needlessly."

However, writing in his column for the Daily Mail, former referee Graham Poll, who took charge of 32 Champions League matches, argued that it was the correct call to award a penalty:

"In my opinion contact continued until at least the line marking the penalty area and further, meaning awarding a penalty was a correct decision. 

"If there is doubt then a referee should give it outside. You can’t guess a penalty. Eriksson must have been sure and if you look at the foul from the assistant referee’s position, he will have seen contact had occurred inside."

Read more: Pellegrini blasts referee Eriksson after Messi penalty
Manchester City 0 Barcelona 2 match report
Manchester City v Barcelona player ratings
Lionel Messi analysis
Comment: Not the worst Barca, but not the team they one were
Comment: Pellegrini still searching for the final pieces of his jigsaw
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