LONDON • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola slammed Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz and lamented decisions that cost his side dear, after a 2-1 home defeat by Liverpool on Tuesday sealed a 5-1 aggregate exit from the Champions League quarter-finals.
The Spaniard was forced to watch the second half from the stands after being sent off for his protestations at the break.
City led 1-0 on the night at that stage after Gabriel Jesus' second-minute opener, but the hosts felt aggrieved after Leroy Sane had a goal disallowed for offside just before half-time.
"It's different to go in 1-0 at half-time to 2-0," said Guardiola, who also believed Liverpool's opener in their 3-0 first-leg home win should have been ruled out for offside.
"When the teams are so equal, the impact of these decisions is so big."
Mohamed Salah booked Liverpool's place in the last four for the first time in a decade when he coolly chipped home his 39th goal of the season 11 minutes into the second half, before Roberto Firmino inflicted a third consecutive defeat on City for the first time in Guardiola's near two-year reign.
The last six times Pep Guardiola's teams played away first in their Champions League knockout ties and came home with a deficit, they got knocked out.
2009-10 BARCELONA, S-FINAL
Lost 2-3 to Inter
1st leg: 1-3 (a). 2nd leg W: 1-0 (h)
2011-12 BARCELONA, S-FINAL
Lost 2-3 to Chelsea
1st leg L: 0-1 (a). 2nd leg D: 2-2 (h)
2013-14 BAYERN MUNICH, S-FINAL
Lost 0-5 to Real Madrid
1st leg: 0-1 (a). 2nd leg: 0-4 (h)
2014-15 BAYERN, S-FINAL
Lost 3-5 to Barcelona
1st leg: 0-3 (a). 2nd leg: 3-2 (h)
2015-16 BAYERN, S-FINAL
Lost on away goals (2-2) to Atletico Madrid
1st leg: 0-1 (a). 2nd leg: 2-1 (h)
2017-18 MANCHESTER CITY, Q-FINAL
Lost 1-5 to Liverpool
1st leg: 0-3 (a). 2nd leg: 1-2 (h)
City were coming off a 3-2 home Premier League defeat by rivals Manchester United last Saturday.
Liverpool trail City by 17 points domestically, but have now beaten Guardiola's men in three of their four meetings this season.
The turning point of the match came when Sane turned into an empty net after Reds goalkeeper Loris Karius' punch came back off his own player James Milner.
According to Fifa rules, Sane would have "gained an advantage" by "playing a ball that was rebounded to him off an opponent, having been in an offside position" - meaning that Lahoz was right to disallow the goal.
However, former English referee Graham Poll told The Daily Mail: "The assistant flagged for offside but the ball had been played forward by Liverpool's James Milner.
"I could understand the assistant thinking Gabriel Jesus had played the ball but, from his position, Lahoz should have overruled him and allowed the goal."
Guardiola ran onto the field at half-time to pull his protesting players away from the official before embarking on his own rant at Lahoz.
"I didn't insult him, I was polite, I was correct. But Mateu Lahoz is a special guy, he likes to be different, he likes to be special," he insisted.
"When everybody sees things he is going to see the opposite. It's too much to send off because I didn't say any wrong word."
Guardiola has bad history with Lahoz, who awarded three penalties against City in last season's Champions League.
Two were for Napoli in 2016 while the crucial one was for Monaco in a last-16 tie early last year as the Ligue 1 side advanced on away goals over two legs.
Lahoz also booked Sergio Aguero for diving against Monaco, a decision Guardiola still holds a grudge against, according to Eurosport.
City, to their credit, played mesmerising football before the break. They made 282 passes in the first half to Liverpool's 88, with 13 goal attempts and more cut-backs than could be counted.
Early in the second half, it became clear that Liverpool had composed themselves and that City would not be able to continue at the same breathless pace. The more City pressed, the more there were going to be gaps to exploit.
And those goals from Salah and Firmino did not just knock Guardiola out of Europe but also made it eight defeats in 14 matches against Klopp, the only coach to consistently expose the defensive glitches in the Spaniard's attacking machine.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON