Chelsea's senior players were united in claiming that Patrice Evra's late challenge on Ramires in Wednesday's 1-0 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Manchester United should have been a penalty but John Terry sounded a note of caution – saying players were "walking on eggshells" about criticising referees.
Frank Lampard described the challenge as a "blatant penalty" and Terry also said that that Spanish referee Alberto Mallenco made the wrong call. However, the Chelsea captain said that players were now cautious about speaking their mind – a reference to the five-match touchline ban given to Sir Alex Ferguson after he criticised referee Martin Atkinson last month.
Terry said that the players feared a "ban" if they were too outspoken in their criticism. Ferguson was banned from the touchline for five games by the Football Association for claiming that Atkinson had not been "fair" in the game between United and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on 1 March when the official chose not to dismiss the Chelsea defender David Luiz.
Terry said: "On the penalty issue as well, I think that it's difficult for us and for you guys [the press] as well, because the players want to come out and speak honestly about it. I've clearly seen it from 60 yards away, Rami clearly getting the first touch. The lads watched it on TV after the game.
"We can't come out here and speak honestly and it's a little bit frustrating. Because we can't speak honestly, you guys [the media] lose out, everyone's walking on eggshells, fearing a ban before the next game. It's not the first time it's happened but anywhere else in the world – Old Trafford, the Nou Camp, the Bernabeu – that's a penalty."
Strictly speaking, Ferguson's ban was administered by the FA rather than Uefa under whose auspices the Champions League falls. Equally, players are permitted to criticise decisions as long as they do not – as Ferguson was ruled to have done – suggest a bias or favouritism on the part of the referee.
Lampard said: "Everyone knows it was a penalty, but he didn't give it. Simple as that. I can't believe he didn't give it. It was blatant – everyone in the stadium saw that."
There is a chance that Chelsea will have the winger Yossi Benayoun back in contention for Tuesday's second leg at Old Trafford. Terry also said that the centre-back Alex da Costa, who has not played since 28 November, might be in contention for the game, or at least a place on the Chelsea bench.
Terry said that he and his team-mates still believed they could defy the odds and get through to the semi-finals. "I was saying to the lads afterwards that it's us versus everyone," he said.
"I think that's clear to see over the last few years. Only we can change that on the football field and expect nothing from anyone. Nothing gets given to you on a plate and it certainly won't be in this competition.
"I'm staying positive. That's the way I am and that's the way I want the lads to be and only we can change it. We can say stuff, we can let things get to us. But, at the end of the day, we need to go there and win on Tuesday."