Rijkaard: Roberto Carlos dismissal hurt us

April 2, 2006

MADRID, April 1 (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard believes the dismissal of Real Madrid defender Roberto Carlos hurt his side as much as it did their rivals in the 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp on Saturday.

'Before Roberto Carlos was sent off it was a more open game, but once he went they decided to sit back and concentrate on defence,' the Dutchman told a news conference.

'We hurried things too much after that as we tried to get another goal, but we ended up creating fewer chances when we were playing against 10 men.'

Barca took the lead through a Ronaldinho penalty in the 22nd minute after midfielder Mark van Bommel easily went to ground under a challenge from Roberto Carlos.

The Brazilian full back picked up a yellow card for complaining about the decision and minutes later was given a straight red for saying something to the referee when he was penalised for a foul on Henrik Larsson.

Real snatched an equaliser thanks to a classy solo goal from Ronaldo before the break and the visitors produced a gritty defensive display to hold out for a draw.

The result did little to slow Barca's progress towards a second successive title as the Catalans remain 11 points clear at the top with seven games left to play.

'Although we are not happy with the draw, it is quite a good result for us,' said Rijkaard. 'We remain on the right course and if we keep working hard we will improve. At this stage of the season the best is still to come.'

Real striker Ronaldo complained that referee Luis Medina Cantalejo had done his side no favours.

'Roberto told me he had done nothing to offend the referee,' he told reporters. 'He's a phenomenon if he heard an insult given the noise out there in the stadium.

'The referees seem to be against us. They blow for non-existent penalties and free kicks.'