Ten Hag and Rashford bemoan referee after Barcelona draw

By Sports Desk February 16, 2023

Erik ten Hag was left furious with the referee's decision to not give Manchester United a free-kick for an apparent foul on Marcus Rashford during their 2-2 draw with Barcelona at Camp Nou in their Europa League knockout round play-off first leg.

Rashford was a thorn in Barca's side throughout and appeared to be taken out by Jules Kounde when through on goal just outside the penalty area with United leading 2-1, but referee Maurizio Mariani allowed play to continue.

The England international equalised Marcos Alonso's opener earlier in the second half before forcing a Kounde own goal to give United the lead, though Raphinha levelled with 14 minutes remaining.

Despite the generally positive performance and result, Ten Hag felt a need to focus on the incident involving Kounde's tackle on Rashford, as the Frenchman would likely have been dismissed if a foul was given.

Ten Hag told BT Sport: "I think the referee had a big influence on this game. It was a foul on Rashy.

"You can discuss if it was in or outside the box, but then [either way] it is a red card because [Rashford] was one-on-one with the keeper. 

"So it's a big influence, not just for this game, in this round. It can't be, referees can't much such mistakes."

Rashford himself was similarly baffled by Mariani's decision.

"It's a massive moment in the game," he said. "I've not watched it back but in the moment I don't understand why the linesman thinks I'm going down there.

"I've touched it past him and my foot's in front of the ball, [Kounde] hits my leg and it's clear contact. It's not a penalty but it's 100 per cent a foul for me."

Nevertheless, Ten Hag acknowledged the overall quality of the thrilling encounter and was impressed with the amount of chances United created.

"I think we dictated the game," Ten Hag continued. "Apart from maybe 15 minutes in the first half we had some difficulties, but for the rest we dictated the game.

"We had so many chances, so I was a little disappointed at half-time it was 0-0, we should have scored, and the opportunities they had we created by ourselves.

"But I think it was a great game, two attacking teams, I think it was really Champions League [quality], so I really enjoyed the game... in the end 2-2, we have to finish it at Old Trafford."

Rashford, who has now equalled his best ever goals return (22) for a single season, seemed a bit more frustrated than his manager.

"It feels like a loss," he added. "I think we did well to get back into the game. The first half was a little bit in favour of them, but we stayed calm and composed and tried to create chances when we could.

"The second half we scored two goals in quick succession and felt in control of the outcome, but they're a good team with top players and they got an equaliser."

The two European giants will do it all again at Old Trafford next Thursday.

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