Barcelona last night condemned Arsenal for playing without "joy and ambition" in their Champions League tie and told Robin van Persie that the only injustice surrounding his dismissal was that it did not come sooner.
Xavi led the criticism of a team so often lauded as Barça's footballing cousins but last night accused of producing the same anti-football in the Nou Camp as Jose Mourinho's Internazionale last year. "It surprised us that they did not play with more joy, more attacking flair," Xavi said. "They had a one goal advantage and they set themselves up to protect it but it did not work out for them. The result was not a real reflection of the tie over two legs – we dominated both games."
The former Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano echoed the sentiments: "It would have been unjust if they had gone through without having a single shot on goal. We won 3-1 but it could have been four or five. It seems as far as some people are concerned Barça never win because of football; it's always because of the referee."
Arsène Wenger's fury with the referee is likely to cost him after both he and Samir Nasri were yesterday charged by Uefa and face a hearing on 17 March for using "inappropriate language" towards Massimo Busacca as tempers flared at the final whistle.
Barça's Dani Alves said Van Persie's red card was deserved. "He had already lost it in the first half with me. Things got very heated and in the second half the referee was just applying the rules," he said. "If he blows the whistle and you still shoot then it is a card. He had to go. Even when Van Persie was on the pitch they had not tested our goalkeeper. Blaming the sending-off is an excuse. We were the only team creating chances."
Coach Pep Guardiola had said after the win: "Arsenal did not string three passes together," and his midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta accused Arsenal of letting football down with their performance. Iniesta said: "They were defending with six players. Their plan was to play everyone at the back and yet they have the players to play a different kind of football."
Xavi added: "Over the two games the only thing that let us down was our finishing, everything else was spectacular. Arsenal hardly had a shot. [The sending-off] helped us dominate the game even more. But we were practically the same when it was 11 v 11."
Sergio Busquets said far from helping them, the referee favoured Arsenal. "If we start analysing the referee then we should be the ones complaining," he said. "There was a penalty on Messi and there was also what Van Persie did to Alves. If anything should disappoint Arsenal it is not the ref but how little ambition they showed. Why did they come here only to defend?"
No one was more distraught at the manner of Arsenal's exit than Cesc Fabregas. Both he and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who dislocated his finger, will miss this weekend's FA Cup tie with Manchester United. Fabregas said: "Fifteen minutes into the second half I felt a pinch at the back of the leg and I knew the game was over for me."
Substitute goalkeeper Manuel Almunia said that fatigue had a lot to do with Arsenal's defeat. "Even at 3-1 we only needed one goal," he said. "But we were tired. Barcelona bossed us and we had players that were not able to run any more. And down to 10 men, well, it was double the effort. Barcelona are the best in the world and that's football."
That defeat in numbers
208 The number of completed passes by Barcelona midfielders Andres Iniesta and Xavi on Tuesday night. Arsenal's entire team managed only 214.
108 Completed passes by Xavi, the most on the pitch. In comparison, Jack Wilshere completed the most passes for Arsenal with 25.
576 The number of passes Barcelona completed more than Arsenal, with 790 (out of 891) to the Gunners' 214 (out of 307).
3 Barcelona's high pressing was rewarded by winning the ball three times in the Arsenal penalty area.
2 Arsenal made just two touches in Barcelona's penalty area; compared to a total of 47 by Barcelona in Arsenal's box.
0 Arsenal are the first team to fail to attempt a single shot in any game in the Champions League, the Europa League and the top five European domestic leagues this season.