Lionel Messi Barcelona Martin Demichelis Machester City
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is brought down by Manchester City defender Martin Demichelis in their Champions League game, 18 February. Reuters

Referee Jonas Eriksson had a debt to pay for a previous howler against Barcelona, and he made up for it on Tuesday, with Manchester City bearing the brunt, according to Manuel Pellegrini, after the manager saw his English Premier League side beaten by the Spanish giants 2-0 with a contentious penalty and red card turning the game in the away side's favour.

Jonas Eriksson was the man of the moment, not particularly for the right reasons, after the referee pointed to the spot for a foul by Martin Demichelis on Lionel Messi, with the Argentine duly giving Barcelona the lead after Demichelis was given a straight red card.

Dani Alves would add a second just before the final whistle, but the talking point would remain the penalty, with Pellegrini feeling Eriksson gave the decision to make up for an error that went against Barcelona in their Champions League quarterfinal clash against AC Milan in 2012.

"Well, I think the referee decided the game," Pellegrini thundered after the disappointing last 16 first leg loss on Tuesday night at the Etihad. "Before the penalty, it was a foul on [Jesus] Navas -- he was a few metres away, so he saw it and it should have been a freekick.

"I thought it was not a penalty -- it was outside the box. To play for 40 minutes without a player against Barcelona is very difficult.

"He refereed the game, Barcelona vs Milan -- he made an important error against Barcelona. Today, he rearranged."

City kept Barcelona relatively quiet for the entire first half, despite the latter enjoying the bulk of the possession, and Pellegrini said he was pleased with his team's performance, both before and after the decisive red card.

"We played very well, we tried to draw level but then they scored the second goal in the last minute," Pellegrini said. "Barcelona didn't have any chances to score in the match until the penalty.

"It was important to continue playing the way we did and try to score. With one player less it was very difficult to score but we had two or three chances to do it. [David] Silva forced a very good save from [Victor] Valdes, [Gael] Clichy had a good chance and the referee gave a foul when [Edin] Dzeko had a clear chance.

"It's very difficult to analyse the game -- before the penalty, Barcelona did not have any chances. We were just preparing a way to score a goal and then that happened. Barcelona had a lot of the ball but they had it where we wanted. They were not near our area, that's what we wanted.

"Since the beginning, he [the referee] didn't give a good impression -- he was decisive in this game. Even so, the team played with courage, with personality and tried to draw the match with ten men."

For Barcelona this tie was about reasserting their dominance in Europe after a momentous thrashing by Bayern Munich last season. To a certain extent, they managed that, but the Spanish side will know the tie is far from done, even if they are well and truly in the driver's seat.

"I don't have the assurance that we're in the next round, but I do have the tranquillity of doing a good job away from home," Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino said. "We came here to win. There was no moment when we thought in any other result that wasn't winning. I think the result is fair.

"We won the first 90 minutes in a match that lasts 180. We're going to approach the second leg as if it were 0-0."