The reason was he had prepared first by watching key incidents in the match all over again, as dispassionately as possible, before facing questions. He even clutched a DVD of the action as if to emphasise the point.

That was important, because in the cold light of night and in front of the world's media, the highly-experienced coach was in no doubt refereeing decisions had cost his team dearly.

'Players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes, the referee can make mistakes,' Hiddink began. 'And that is why we give them the benefit of the doubt sometimes. That is all in the game.

'But if you have seen three or four situations waved away, then it is the worst I have seen.'

The denying of a multitude of penalty appeals by Chelsea, already 1-0 up due to Michael Essien's eighth-minute stunner, will remind older Chelsea fans of a home FA Cup tie against Millwall 14 seasons ago when referee Martin Bodenham turned down three absolute clear-cut shouts and the Blues went out.

The stage this time was a whole lot bigger and the opposition could not have been more contrasting, but the feeling of injustice was the same. Norwegian Tom Henning Øvrebø was the official at the centre of it all.

'You have sometimes to give the benefit of doubt to the referee,' continued Hiddink, 'because you can discuss whether there was a penalty when Drogba had his shirt pulled in the first-half but you can also discuss last week whether Henry was pulled on his shirt in the area. But if you have three or four situations?

'In the first half you see it with Malouda, clearly pulled over in the area. The ref had a perfect view. Then you see waved away the two handball situations when the arms were going up. We got a penalty against us away to Juventus when Belletti went up with arms high in the wall. After when I saw that I said yes, it was a penalty.

'It was a similar situation today with Anelka's ball when the hand was lifted by Piqué. You cannot draw back your hand in that situation. And the second one when the shot came from Ballack and Eto'o lifted his arm.'

Though frustrated, the Dutchman refused to be drawn into suggestions of a conspiracy by some who may not wish for a repeat of last year's Champions League Final.

'I don't want to go with those tough words because then I would have to prove it. That is difficult to do.'

He was however willing to defend the actions of previously-substituted Drogba who returned to the pitch after the final whistle to leave the ref in no doubt as to his view of the crucial calls.

'I can understand fully his reaction, full of emotion, full of adrenalin. People say you should be in control. He was in control. The moment a player is full of emotion and starts hitting, he is going beyond where he should go. I fully understand his behaviour and I will protect that.'

'I can understand that Chelsea can be disappointed by the performance of the referee,' said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. 'They say a lot of penalties is possible but I didn't see.

'We didn't create so much. I expected Chelsea to come a little bit more for us but they didn't so it was difficult to create many chances. It is difficult to play Chelsea 11 against 11 so you can imagine 10 against 10,' he added with reference to the second-half red card for defender Eric Abidal.

Robbed was the overall mood in the dressing room following Andrés Iniesta's stoppage time tie-decider Hiddink reported, although there was also some regret over the Chelsea players' own actions in the match.

'We played a very decent game and we did tactically well. The only thing is we should have decided the game already outside of the big worldwide discussion over the penalties.

'At this level it is very difficult and there were two or three open chances we should have taken. Then we wouldn't have this fuss about penalties.'