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Arsenal survive Barca siege

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Phil McNulty | 07:07 UK time, Thursday, 1 April 2010

At the Emirates.

Arsene Wenger's lavish boast that Arsenal's Champions League meeting with Barcelona would illustrate "the art of football" came to fruition as a masterpiece was unveiled at the Emirates.

Barcelona provided brush strokes of rare beauty, especially in a mesmerising opening 25 minutes that will be imprinted forever in the memory of those of us privileged enough to witness it at close quarters.

Coach Pep Guardiola, with the Nou Camp's principles coursing through his veins, disguised his disappointment at conceding a two-goal lead to declare: "I am proud of my team. We won the Champions League last season but we never played like that away from home. Never."

Arsenal provided few of their trademark flourishes, and the final score was an absurdly inaccurate reflection of the gulf in class between the sides. There should, however, be pride for Wenger in the strength, spirit and courage of his team.

No-one epitomised those qualities more than captain Cesc Fabregas. Very obviously less than fully fit, he survived the blow of picking up a yellow card that ruled him out of a return to Barcelona to seal the unlikeliest of draws for Arsenal with what may be his final meaningful contribution of the season.

Fabregas converts his penalty to make it 2-2Fabregas converts his penalty to make it 2-2

Fabregas collapsed to the turf, fearing he had broken his leg, after scoring the penalty that somehow gives Arsenal hope to accompany them on their journey to Catalunya next week. If it is his last serious kick of the campaign, he went out in style.

It was the final act of drama on what Wenger correctly labelled "a great football night. An exceptional football night". And a night when Arsenal defied logic to keep themselves alive.

They will need to do it again in the Nou Camp because they sustained some serious damage around the edges here. Fabregas and William Gallas fear their seasons have reached a premature conclusion while Andrey Arshavin did not last the first half after suffering a calf injury.

Barcelona will be overwhelming favourites to progress, but football is not a predictable game. The second leg should already be a formality - and Wenger knows his side somehow escaped an almighty mauling on Wednesday.

The statistics tell the tale of how Barcelona dominated. When was the last time Arsenal only had a 38% share of possession at home? Barcelona also completed 533 passes to Arsenal's 265.

Sir Alex Ferguson, in the build-up to last season's Champions League final defeat against Barcelona, claimed Xavi "has never given the ball away in his life". The midfielder was not about to start against Arsenal.

Lionel Messi sent an ominous hush over the Emirates with a surge of acceleration after only 30 seconds, but the great Argentine was relatively subdued. It was Xavi who kept the machine ticking.

Manuel Almunia had the half of his life to keep Messi, Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at bay. The latter also missed an open goal, but Barca were beautiful to watch. Pace, power, poise, artistry, movement. And world-class players willing to work as hard off the ball as they did on it.

They know and appreciate their passing football at the Emirates, but they may not have seen anything as good as this.

Barcelona had apparently dominated 75% of the possession after 20 minutes, a dubious figure when the only Arsenal player who had appeared to make any contact with the ball was Almunia.

When referee Massimo Busacca blew the whistle for half-time, there was an audible buzz around the stadium. The Emirates had seen something very special, and yet Arsenal were still in the game.

Almunia scarred his night with an injudicious dash from goal to give Ibrahimovic his opener after just 25 seconds of the second half. And when the Swede added a second on the hour, Barcelona looked set to administer the beating they had threatened in the first half.

Ibrahimovic scores his second of the nightIbrahimovic scores his second of the nighte

In this moment of desperation, Wenger removed Bacary Sagna and introduced Theo Walcott in front of watching Fabio Capello.

The England coach sees something special in the young flier, and, for any faults he may possess, Walcott has the commodity that strikes fear into all defenders: raw pace. This is why he will be at the World Cup and Capello will use him.

Walcott pulled a goal back and then helped create the opportunity that ended with Carles Puyol red-carded for catching Fabregas as he moved to shoot. The penalty was scored, at some cost to Fabregas and Arsenal, and they go to the Nou Camp all square.

Guardiola, as stylish and impressive as the team he guides, gave full credit to the Gunners and delivered an insight into his philosophy when he abruptly stopped an inquisitor in his tracks after hearing the dirty word "defensive" suggested as a potential Barcelona ploy.

"No", said Guardiola. "There is more risk when you take no risk." And as long as that spirit survives, Barcelona will provide us with the sort of pleasure experienced at the Emirates on Wednesday.

For all Arsenal's gallantry, this may prove an expensive night for their Champions League and Premier League ambitions, but Wenger and his players should take great heart from their contribution.

Wenger is never slow to talk up the spirit in the Arsenal camp, and there have been times when we have doubted him. Not here. Not for a moment.

They could have capitulated after going two down to Guardiola's magnificent team, but Arsenal found it within themselves to fight back and were chasing a miracle in the closing minutes.

All odds favour Barcelona to go through, but Arsenal defied a few to match Guardiola's side in the scoreline, if nothing else, at the Emirates.

It was, as Wenger predicted, a game for the connoisseur and a purists' delight.

You can follow me throughout this season at twitter.com/philmcnulty and join me on Facebook.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    Spot on Phil, a true gem of a game. These are the only 2 teams for whom I would cancel anything else in my life to watch them. Having them play each other is a dream.

    Question: Can Nasri, Walcot, Bendtner and Co. maybe score enough goals in the second leg to actually win it -considering the 2 most influential Barca defenders (Puyol and Pique)- will be out? Can they score more goals than Barca?

    CAN THEY?

  • Comment number 2.

    just as i expected from you Phil. An article slating arsenal and you say it was a score-line 'inaccurately absurd'??. Can you please explain that comment? Surely that is a big over-reaction. I do not deny that arsenal were outplayed by barca just like manu were in rome last year for the majority of the game but we were the better team in the final quarters.

  • Comment number 3.

    We were very, very lucky to get a draw. Guardiola is a world class coach, someone who could succeed Arsene Wenger one day if the clubs policy is changing and real money is spend in the tranfer market.

    Barca a might have it`s ups and downs this season, but for mey money favourites to reach the CL final and win it again. We were outplayed and outclassed on our own pitch, the difference of the quality in both squads
    could have been not more obvious.

    Both the remaining english teams had poor games, Man U will go through to the semis at Old Trafford, but we don`t have the slightest chance at the Nou Camp next week. We`ve been very lucky once, so that won`t happen again. Hopefully it will not be a very heavy defeat. Five years without spending money in the transfer market has left as behind the real big ones in Europe and unless that attitude is changing, we won`t be winning anything at all.

  • Comment number 4.

    Great game to watch. Credit to Arsenal for battling back. I do get the feeling that they are gonna get mauled at the nou camp though.

    Barca looked unstoppable at times last night. I wonder why they are stuttering in La Liga and not running away with it???

    I think Barca will win the champions league. if they get through the (sorry gooners) formality of knocking arsenal out, its gonna be a great game up against Mourinho. The ultimate attacking team, against one of the best defensive coaches in Europe. should be an interesting one

    Arsenal have still got a chance, but like most others, i really cant see past a Barca v Inter Semi final, with the winner playing Lyon in the final. I'm a Man U fan, and even if we can get past Bayern, i really see Lyon as the dark horse or "next porto" this year

    Good luck Arsenal!

  • Comment number 5.

    Even my wife enjoyed it and she cannot stand football normally

  • Comment number 6.

    What happened to this build up of the greatest player ever lived? well it fell flat last night didnt it. A lot of people must remember what a poor league la liga is outside the top 2.

    Last night was the first time ive ever wanted another english team (utd fan) to win, but only as they will be easier for us ;) I missed football training to watch it and boy how glad am i that i did. Brilliant football, its not how many chances you create, ITS HOW MANY YOU TAKE.

  • Comment number 7.

    YES WE CAN

  • Comment number 8.

    All I can say is WOW!!! Barcelona are truely in a class of their own but in the face of such adversity, to do what arsena did was nothing short of magical! We saw the best and worst of Almunia yeterday but i think the good parts completely out weigh the one moment of madness!

    I say arsenal did an amazing job! to be subdued for such a long time particularly for a team who is use to doing the same against opposition, to concede to quick away goals, to loose two quality players before the second hal and still managing to salvage a draw is a truely amazing acheivement.


    Phil how do you rate these player after yesterday's game:

    Messi: Non existent for me. Apart from a moment or two did not do anything special
    Fabregas: Again did not do too much but boy was the penalty important!

    I think Eboue and walcot were the key to the fight back. Eboue is the unsung hero for me. He made several key runs and was good defensively.


    I have read several articles with people being critical of Diaby and Vermaelen. I think they did really ok considering what they were going through and the kind of pressure they were facing.

    All in all a good game and with Puyol and Pique out i give arsenal a chance for Camp Nou. Plus it also gives them a clear sight of what they need to do.....win. Arsenal tend to get caught between defensive and attacking modes when its a mixed result!

  • Comment number 9.

    Barca had their chances and blew it. i don't think they will be able to produce those first 25 minutes of brilliance again this season, and arsenal might have a good chance if they can counter attack barca at their home.

    The best arsenal player on the pitch apart from alumnia was Samir Nasri, and its a pity that you didn't care to mention his name in the entire article... Before walcott came on, he was the only Arsenal player who tackled and stood up against the Barca players, and produced some of the best arsenal crosses in those rare moments.

  • Comment number 10.

    Fair enough report here Phil.

    Can i just say as an Arsenal fan what an unbelievable performance that was from Barcerlona and absolute joy to watch not just the 1st 20mins but the whole game, we were watching one of the greatest club sides ever to grace the game of football last night and it will live long in the memory.

    Brilliant work and endeavour by the gunners to give us a chance in the second leg aswell. Whether we win anytyhing this season or not you have/are doing us all proud and i for one believe the future is very bright.

    Well done Barca on a great performance and well done boys on showing spirit and a never say die attitude.

    Roll on Tuesday!!!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Barcelona are a real enigma.

    They demonstrated passing of a different level in the opening period of the game, but let's not get carried away wih the adulation. Arsenal's defence was all over the place.

    As you saw as soon as Barca came up against a bit of fight and resistance they lost their shape and attacking brilliance. As for the 'superstar' Messi, he disappeared after 30 secs.

    United and Chelsea have also shown recently that Barca can be neutralised. Barca have both 1st choice centre-backs banned next game and if Cesc and Gallas were fit for next week I'd put money on Arsenal completing their comeback at the Nou Camp.

    However, taking all into account I believe home advantage will see Barca through!

    Ps- I'm a Chelsea fan!

  • Comment number 12.

    Arsenal were completely outplayed and outclasses for vast swathes of the game, showing them up once again to be a poor imitation of what Wenger believes them to be and coming up very short in the biggest games. Barcelona were sublime and controlled the majority of the game.
    However, Barcelona's defence does not look good and the loss of both Puyol and Pique may still have a bearing on the outcome. I sincerely hope not as I want the best teams to get through to the latter stages, not a Barcelona wannabe team that will never ever be good enough to be compared with them.

  • Comment number 13.

    Peter Post # 3

    Why do you say we have no chance of winning at camp nou?? I agree arsenal were outplayed but eventually they managed to turn it around and if i dare say were dominating towards the last 10-15 minutes and barca were on the back foot. Very few in this arsenal team have ever played barcelona so it is obvious they needed time to adapt to their style of play because the premier league is just nothing compared to this brand of football. Sure they took a little longer than expected but they eventually managed and im sure things will be different in spain

  • Comment number 14.

    A super game of football.

    I do, however, still feel Barcelona will progress - even without Pique and Puyol, I think they'll simply be to good for Arsenal at the Nou Camp. Watching last night's game, they just seemed to ease off once they got their second goal and allow Arsenal back into the match. I just don't see that happening in the return leg.

    Credit Arsenal for their spirit though - one wonders whether they'd have shown the same fight in previous seasons - and also Wenger, for introducing Theo Walcott - although I do feel his decision to risk Gallas was unwise. Without him, (possibly) Arshavin, and most importantly Fabregas, I think Barcelona will go through fairly comfortably.

    Indeed, a certain Andres Iniesta may even be fit for the second leg - not fully fit, maybe, but wasn't that the case in last season's final?

  • Comment number 15.

    'Wenger is never slow to talk up the spirit in the Arsenal camp, and there have been times when we have doubted him. Not here. Not for a moment.'

    What? I've lost count how many times you's made light or mocked his belief in his team, before and even running up to this match.

    Not that it matters because this'll unlikely see the light of day here ...

  • Comment number 16.

    Arsenal is my second favourite team after Liverpool in England. They were mauled. They showed incredible heart, all the credit in the world to them, they could have spit out the dummy with the injuries, etc. Very impressed with Arsenal's fortitude. They won't survive the tie but this has to bode well for the future. Well done Gunners against the best club side I've ever seen.

  • Comment number 17.

    From you for the 1st time a well balanced article-Barcelona were fantastic buy my beloved Arsenal showed the fight that has been integral in any Arsenal team-and its not the 1st time a player has carried on playing with a broken leg. I can see us nicking this but or it may be just because I am a priest and am fervently praying for that outcome.

  • Comment number 18.

    How many times will Arsenal have to come back from the dead this year? At this rate, George A Romero should direct our end of season film.

    In fairness, we were battered and in boxing the ref would have stopped it.

    For the first half, it was like watching normal Arsenal matches in a mirror. There was a team passing the ball around with style and flair making the opposition chase shadows and for all the possession and craft, it was still nil nil. The only difference was the team chasing the shadows.

    Aside from the fact that we go into the last few games of the season with only 6 fit players, one last thing to ponder...

    The last great captain we had, Vieira, his last ever kick in an Arsenal shirt was a penalty that won the FA Cup against United. In a sort of worrying parallell, was that penalty the last kick from Cesc in an Arsneal shirt?

  • Comment number 19.

    Decent Appraisel there PHIL!

    -------------------------------------------

    WOW!

    What a Game that was.

    But lets not fool ourselves, we were very lucky to not have been dead and buried in the first half.We just could not live with Barca and if it were not for the heroics of Almunia we would all be depressed knowing the return leg would have been meaningless. As it is we have a slender
    foothold and very much something to play for in the return.

    Watching Gallas,Arshavin and Cesc I do wonder just how high a price we will pay it seems that niether should have even started the game and i assume all will now face lengthy lay offs which will for sure affect our PL campaign.

    Credit to Walcott and indeed to the whole side apart from Bendtner and not because he failed to score! his work rate is shamefull! he strutts about like some Dressage Horse he makes little of no attempt to close down players and it made it appear Arsenal were playing with no striker at all! Disgracefull and lazy attitude he has and I think he should
    be shipped out! As I say its not that he misses chances, but just watch him when we dont have the ball! he needs a dam good kick up the derryair thats for sure.

    On the sending off, I think that was very harsh to be honest, the penalty was punishment enough, full credit to Cesc for showing complete composure even though the guy knew he was out of the return leg.

    So we now look forward to the Nou Camp but make no mistake there is no disgrace to loose to such a fine side as Barca obvioulsy are even IOWEUMAN'D would have found it difficult to live with them, no wonder they were pleased to avoid them.

    Overall well played the Gunners the spirit and determination showed and keeps us in with a shout at least.


  • Comment number 20.

    jay842 wrote:

    "United and Chelsea have also shown recently that Barca can be neutralised"

    Would they be the games that both Chelsea & Man U lost?

    Whoever Barcelona were playing last night would have been all over the place defensively you do not see passing and movement like that very often (infact has anybody seen it before??) Arsenal pride themselves on that style of football and they are superb at it but Barcelona were a different level totally last night to any other football team on this planet.

    As i said before an absolute joy to watch.

  • Comment number 21.

    Ok so thebig question from last couple of nights:
    the league title.

    Arsenal: arshavin, gallas and fabregas all injured
    United: Rooney crocked. (possibly, hopefully not. )

    So Chelsea have it all opening up in front of them, or is it not as simple as that?

  • Comment number 22.

    This match was an absolute classic. Even without their hugely influential defensive duo, I fancy Barca will get through the 2nd leg with relative ease, even if Arsenal score a few you would still back the blau-grana to score more.

    After this performance Barca can be quietly confident that they will go in to Round 1 of the Bernabeu saga (April 10th) with a realistic chance of victory, let us only hope it is as good a match as last year's eight goal thriller (6-2 to Barca).

    And if, by chance Barca do lift the Champions League title in the New Galacticos backyard, then there will be no sweeter victory. Comparable only to the fictional scenario of a last day of the season clash between Arsenal and Spurs, where the euphoric victory of one team wins them the title, while the defeat of the other lead to a crippling relegation.

    Can't wait!

  • Comment number 23.

    Chalky.... are you obama in disguise?

    For the football - WOW, brilliant. It has been said before but Eboue has really turned up this season and he will be missed if he leaves (as suggested) Nasri was in a class of his own -he definitely stood taller than his stature suggests.

    The only let down was Diaby - he defended pretty well, but his passing lacked conviction and I was surprised Sagna came off instead of him. Shame about Gallas, if he had been on the pitch, I do not believe those two goals would have been scored

    Overall, I am pleased to concede that Wenger has been right all along and this team has come along brilliantly... good luck for the rest of the season

  • Comment number 24.

    Question: If a defender gets goal side of an attacker - with his back to him - so that he can't even see the attacking player - and the attacking player takes a swing at the ball and catches the defender between the legs - how can it be concluded as a penalty and a sending off. I have watched the incident about 20 times now and I can't for the life of me get my head around the refs decision. For anyone that doubts my take on this watch the clip again and watch the positioning of the two players - Puyol does nothing wrong other than to get IN FRONT of Fabregas and steer the ball away to his left back position. This is not to say that Fab did anything untoward to gain the penalty - all he was guilty of was the being the slowest of the two players to react - as I said - Puyol just got in front of him to clear his lines. Anyway to conclude it's a real pity any player has to miss the return leg through suspension - don't we always like to see two teams with their very best players all on the park at the same time?

  • Comment number 25.

    I live in Thailand and the game kicked off at 1.45am. I had planned to have sleep before the game but like a kid waiting for Christmas, I couldn't. Then the game started and what a game! I didn't want it to end. The first 20 minutes was the greatest demonstration of football (bar the finishing) I had ever seen. When this Barca team clicks they are awesome. To say Arsenal were fortunate is the understatement of the millennium. But they never gave up. It took me ages to actually get to sleep after the game.

  • Comment number 26.

    Barcelona were indeed very impressive at parts in that game, but towards the end they showed they are not the unstoppable machine everyone seems to tout them as, indeed they looked vulnerable, and were resorting to clumping out of defence just to alleviate some pressure.

    Well done to Arsenal for coming back from 2-0 down, it takes some spirit to not fold in the wake of the hammer blows Barcelona dealt, but they did it with style. Walcott last night terrified the defence with his pace, and gave me hope that if he can do that to the best club team in the world, then he can surely do that to the best defences in the world cup too.

    The question now is, will the loss of Fabregas be more significant to Arsenal than the loss of Pique and Puyol will be to Barcelona?

    I know this sounds crazy, but i have a feeling that Inter Milan, should they get through, might actually have the tactical nous to knock Barcelona out.

  • Comment number 27.

    I am sorry Phil but I just cannot buy into the love-fest with Barcelona. I expected Arsenal to win last night because Barcelona play in the most uncompetitive league in Europe. You say there was a gulf in class but how is this Barcelona team that much superior than Arsenal. In Messi and Xavi you have two great players but the rest of Barcelona is average at best. There is way too much hype in European football. The key to Barcelona is not Messi it is Xavi. Sit on Xavi and Barcelona is just another good team waiting for Messi to try and make something happen. You are asking for trouble if you give Xavi time to pick out a pass. Chelsea demonstrated that in the semi last year and if not for the fact that Drogba concentration was somewhere else over the two legs last year Barcelona would not even be in the conversation. Granted Arsenal was a bit lucky last night but that is part of sport. What I don't get is the need to hype them beyond reality. Besides Xavi and Messi there is not another player they have that you would brake the bank to acquire. What you do have to do is play your best because they do play as a team. Which brings me back to Arsenal who has a shot but guys like Diaby has to play better. Arsenal has to be compact and choke the space in front of Xavi and pray the goal keeper keeps a sane mind. There is no need for Arsenal to play to the strengths of Barcelona which is time for Xavi to think and space in front of Messi.

  • Comment number 28.

    Barcelona were immense for the first 25 minutes and no team could compete with them, after that they just played very well and how they normally do at home. However, Chelsea and Man Utd both went to the Emirates and totally outclassed them scoring 6 goals between them and only conceding 1.

    No denying Barcelona are a very special side but they're not invincible.

  • Comment number 29.

    Barca were great at points and did make several chances but Arsenal must be gutted with the goals they conceded.
    One of the best bits of the night was when Jens Lehmann was talking about how well Almunia was playing and then he was caught in no-mans land within 10 seconds for the first goal.
    I hope Arsenal beat Barca. I hope they don't give them too much respect in their backyard.
    My tactics would be to rough up Sergio and Xavi and the whole spine of their team will be broken with the central defenders missing. If Arsenal take the 1 or 2 goalscoring opportunities they will get (i.e NB's 2nd half saved header) they have a decent chance.

  • Comment number 30.

    I know this sounds crazy, but i have a feeling that Inter Milan, should they get through, might actually have the tactical nous to knock Barcelona out.

    --------------------------------------------------------------

    What the same Inter side managed by Mourinho that completely nullified Chelsea at Stamford Bridge?

    That doesn't sound crazy in the slightest.

  • Comment number 31.

    You have a typo in 'philosophy' in reference to Guardiola.

    Gutted I didn't get to see the game. I had pegged Arsenal this season as the only team capable of matching of Barca, in fact I thought they could win over the two legs, due simply to the type of Football they play. I am not so sure now. But what I am certain of is that Barca are an accident waiting to happening. If you can have that much possession and squander a two goal lead, then teams stronger than Arsenal will punish you for it. Some interestingly poised matches coming up.

  • Comment number 32.

    Let's be serious, the result was a complete travesty, as happens sometimes one team gets all the luck and last night it was Arsenal. I don't like Arsenal but good luck to them on another night they could have conceded eight. For any Arsenal supporters who think they did any better than humiliation, you've got a big shock coming in the return.
    Barcelona have ample replacements in defence and if it's like last night they won't need one. Barcelona will put out their best team next week and that will spell big trouble for Arsenal, no team can be that lucky twice. If the luck goes with the home team in the return they could score ten, the gulf between the two teams is that wide.

    We also saw last night why Arsenal are so far behind Chelsea and Man Utd, in a similar circumstance they may have lost but they wouldn't have been utterly humiliated like Arsenal were.

    I still can't believe it was a draw. Arsenal last night were probably the luckiest team I have ever seen in a European tie

  • Comment number 33.

    This is not demeaning Arsenal at all when I assert the result flattered the Gunners. Not to say I don't applaud their spirit, but this was a massive let off for the home team by the Blaugrana.

    In answer to your Q Phil. Liverpool outpossessed and outpassed Arsenal at the Em last season, en route to our 1-1 draw.

    That said, while numbers don't always tell the whole story, the top eight passers in that game were Xavi, Busquets, Alves, Pique, Maxwell, Puyol, Messi and Pedro, respectively. Denilson, the first home player in that list is two behind Pedro. I will freely acknowledge though that despite Barcelona and Real Madrid leading the passing charts in the Champions League's knockout phases, three of the top four (RM, Milan and Olympiakos), and five of the top seven (add Stuttgart and Sevilla to the list) are no longer in the competition (source: http://www.zonalmarking.net/2010/03/31/arsenal-2-2-barcelona-passing-statistics/)

    I've already seen what I think are premature celebrations of Pique and Puyol being out of the return clash at the Nou Camp, but how about the loss of Fabregas (second booking) and Arshavin (calf injury)?

    I would still not start Walcott, but instead deploy his headless chicken self as an impact sub. Song must get more help in central midfield. Both teams played an identical 4-2-3-1 but with vastly different result. Both goals emanated from the left, Nasri's side (plus Glichy if not mistaken) and there's need for help on that side. Arshavin's loss might not be all bad because he doesn't help out much defensively. Denilson should be paired with Song to act as a midfield fulcrum like the way Rafa deployed Alonso and Masch, or Gerrard and Masch.

    To me the biggest area of improvement still is mental. Arsenal played too deep and in a very cowardly manner (damage control). Work on that. On a good day the Gunners can still be true to their attacking philosophy - fine and fair to acknowledge that Barca play a different version of soccer - and give the Catalans a run for their money.

    All in all, I still wish you the best and hope this gutsy and fortuitous performance can provide incentive for qualification.

  • Comment number 34.

    Can I just make one point to start, the Zlatan 'open goal miss' was actually flagged offside so would not have counted. I have read several articles today which highlight this as a missed chance, which is inaccurate.

    As for the game, I have never seen football like it. Barcelona were incredible in the first half. I defy any team to have beaten them on that form. Guardiola also admitted that it was the best his side had played. The problem we had was that a few players seemed overawed by the occasion. They were nervous on the ball and constantly gave it away. When we were down and out at 0-2, we actually started to play with no fear and played some good stuff ourselves. Walcott made a big difference as Maxwell dare not go past the half way line as Theo's pace scared the life out of them. This stoppped Barca from having a man over all the time which was happening in the first half.

    So yes we got battered for 70 mins, but I am so proud that the team fought back. I cannot really see us going through, but at least we have proved we can cut it with the very best. Those players just need to have faith in their ability and impose themselves on the game against the bigger teams. You never know, at the Nou Camp without Puyol and Pique we may spring a suprise.

  • Comment number 35.

    gharvey - what are you smoking? Do you know what 'goal side' means? In case you don't, it is when the defender gets between the attacker and the goal.
    If you watch the incident again, you should see that Fabregas is swivelling to attempt to volley a ball which is dropping over his right shoulder, and Puyol just cynically runs through the back of him. Puyol gets absolutely nowhere near the ball, is not goal side, and it is a fairly clear penalty (although maybe not have been given by a certain Norwegian referee). Puyol is quite a clever player and made it look more clumsy than cynical, but if you see where the ball is dropping you will see he was making no attempt to win it - his eyes are clearly on Fabregas.

  • Comment number 36.

    A very good game indeed! Barcelona's fitness, movemment, ambidexterity and passing were a joy to behold but.....it was the old Indiana Jones and the whirling dervish scenario.... for all their devilish skills with the whirling swords, Barca were undone by a 'gun' that could roughly fire in two goals. In the end football beauty counts for nothing if the other team scores goals. Arsenal were a tad fortunate to come away at 2-2 but they did score two goals and that is really all that mattered on the night.
    On Messi... a very skilful player who promises world greatness, a greatness he has NOT yet achieved in the game. Comparisons betwwen great players of different eras are often pointless (great players of any period would have dealt with the prevailing training and dietary regimes)but let's see how he does over a complete career before we start to place him in the company of Pele, Maradona, Best, Cruyff, Zidane, Di Stefano, Rossi et al. Agricultural defenders and sheer exposure of his bag of tricks will, no doubt, take their toll in curbing the effectiveness of his mercurial feet, as will the decline and departure of those players who presently surround and support him. It is the way of football. At this time his 'status' in the game, in my opinion, is based on far too few performances and demanding competitive situations.

  • Comment number 37.

    I dont think there is a massive "gulf" in class between the two. I recognise that Barcelona played an awesome game and outplayed the gunners, but i think the Arsenal performance for the most part was woeful. We just stood and watched them play. No closing down, no tackling and Bendtner up front did a terrible job of holding the ball up.

    Arsenal's strength lies in their ability to keep possession. As is Barca's. But Barca were able to win the ball back and then move on. Arsenal were not able to string 2 passes together.

    If we can put in a better performance next week and get the ball down and pass we have every chance, coz on our day we are as good as Barca.

    But it will be tough now to qualify.

  • Comment number 38.

    gharvey, puyol deliberately ran into fabregas from behind...stonewall penalty and red card, and I don't support Arsenal. the fact that he made it look accidental only highlights his experience, not his innocence.
    davidgilmour, the much maligned bendtner had no goals, but 2 assists!

  • Comment number 39.

    After watching the game I have no idea how Arsenal walked away from it with a draw.

    Fair play to Theo though for waking the rest of the Arsenal team up with a superb impact performance.

    I think Arsenal will need to gamble on the game next week and just go for it - they have to. They should start Walcott up front with Bentdner, with Arshavin in support and stick everyone else in defence. Theo scared the life out of the Barca players when he came on - he has to start.

  • Comment number 40.

    Yes, what an amazing display of purist football from Barcelona. I was not only impressed by the skill levels displayed by them but the work rate was incredible. In their bright yellow jerseys that looked like bees or wasps swarming round the Arsenal players whenever they got the ball.The score could easily have been 8 - 4 to the spaniards and that would have been flattering to the Gooners.

    Almunia, played to type. He made some exceptional reflex saves to repel the early onslaught but again conceded a soft goal highlighting the poor decision making side of his game. I feel that Fabregas, Gallas, Arsharvin and Diaby all went into the game way below full fitness and you just cannot do that at this level.

    There must be alot of World Cup managers that witnessed this display with more than a little trepidation.

    What Arsene is trying to achieve at Arsenal is wonderful for us fans and football in general. If the cloggers don't appreciate that now, after last night's spectacle, then can someone kindly switch off the lights.

  • Comment number 41.

    Last night the pretenders were shown up by the masters.

    Arsenal were lucky they weren't 4-0 down at half time. Barca won't be so forgiving at the nou camp.

    Maybe now arsenal fans will stop comparing they're football to that of Barcelona's the gulf between the two teams last night was huge.

  • Comment number 42.

    'philophy'? Another of your fire-new words (like 'teatotaller'), Phil, or a new way to describe your blogs?

  • Comment number 43.

    @gharvey

    he does NOT get in front of Fabregas. But nevertheless intentional or not, it was a pen. Fabregas was about to score and Puyol(not going for the ball) challenged him and stopped him from scoring.

    The red was harsh tho. Considering that it wasnt what we call a "professional foul".

  • Comment number 44.

    Arsenal fans suggesting that they may pull it off in Barcelona are deluding themselves, Stuttgart managed a genuinely creditable 1-1 draw at home in the last round, but got thumped 4-0 in the Camp Nou. Barcelona ran rings around Arsenal for 70 minutes last night without Iniesta.

    Yes Puyol and Pique may be absent but given that Barcelona had the ball 62% of the game on your own patch (71% of the first half) and you'll be without Gallas and Fabregas for the second leg, the Barcelona second string centre halfs (who lets face it won't be mugs) won't matter a jot.

    Arsenal pulled out a draw and credit to them, but there's no way Barcelona will be as profligate at home as they were here, and at times it was men against boys.

    Both the English sides in this weeks games were comfortably second best in their ties.

  • Comment number 45.


    I don't think it should have been a penalty. Obstruction? There are worse acts committed 'shielding' the ball out for a goal kick, I don't think the referee could have given that decision anywhere else on the pitch. Certainly not a red card, either.

    Eleven men on eleven, Barcelona are a better side. Henry should not have played last night, clearly he wasn't right mentally to play in a game of such magnitude against arsenal, but for sentimental reasons can see why he was given a cameo. Goal scoring draw away from home in Europe is a terrific result, Barca to go through.

  • Comment number 46.

    For those debating the referee's decision re the penalty, sadly I have to say that he got it spot on.

    Don't think there was any intent from Puyol, but there doesn't need to be intent for it to be a foul. The fact is that if Fabregas had been able to connect with the ball there is a very high chance that Arsenal would have been level. Puyol tried to make a challenge but unfortunately got tangled up with Fabregas who went down (in his usual spectacular style). It was a clear pen and ultimately, it also denied a clear goalscoring chance, hence the red card.

  • Comment number 47.

    to reddevil23

    spot on mate. They play brilliantly as a team, no one would break the bank for any other barca player than xavi, iniesta and messi. Stop the midfield and you stop barca.

    People forget just how lucky barca were to win it last season, if they hadnt then they wouldnt receive this hype. Dont get me wrong it was a magnificent display of football but the result is what counts, and they drew to a team they pretty much battered. Whoever said this is the greatest team ever needs to re-evaulate. The best to watch or the best at getting results? as its not the latter.

  • Comment number 48.

    I predict a very nervy 1-0 win for the Arsenal!!

  • Comment number 49.

    I can't believe someone has actually slated the la liga after watching Barcelona destroy Arsenal last night. Fair enough credit where its due, Arsenal did show a good battling last half hour but the gulf in class was there for all to see.

    Barca to win by 3 in Camp nou(propably goin on 10)

  • Comment number 50.

    I think it is fair to say the 1st 30 minutes we had our pants pulled down and got a very very public spanking....thankfully Almunia has always been a very good shotstopper (it is his judgement that is questionable - see goal 1) and I think we grew from 30 mins on.

    the last hour of the game was pretty even if truth be told, Eboue provided a better balance in midfield than a clearly unfit Arshavin, Diaby started to get a hold on the game as well and Denilson provided a very calming influence in the middle allowing Cesc and Nasri to get involved...The team is growing, last season the result would've been 4-1 - that said we're not there yet.

    Walcott's cameo proved why Capello will, correctly, take him to South Africa as raw pace puts the frighteners on even the very best - Barcelona looked very wobbly when he had the ball...

    Also - the atmosphere was incredible all game.


    As for next week - Barca will be favourites, but Wenger can point out with no 1st choice centre backs available they are beatable.

  • Comment number 51.

    gharvey - couldn't agree more re. the penalty decision; a very soft decision, but which didn't come as a surprise given the standard of refereeing throughout.

    does nobody else watch these games lamenting the constant play-acting (esp from the Spaniards) which is completely and utterly 'encouraged' by the fact that every time they go down wincing in 'agony' the ref dutifully gives them a free kick and often (e.g. in the laughable case of Fabregas' brilliant sliding challenge) produces a yellow card?!

    altogether a good game of football but one that risked being spoiled by characteristic inane european refereering

  • Comment number 52.

    3-3 next week, no doubt.

  • Comment number 53.

    #3 haha brilliant, pep guardiola could take over from wenger, how gracious of you to extend him such an offer, bet he'll be made up about that...

    he already manages a far superior club, joker...

  • Comment number 54.

    Yet again, the myth that Arsenal can play their pretty football against decent opposition has been exposed as fraud.

    But even though you could see Barcelona missed Iniesta, fair play to the gunners, through great spirit and a decisive substitution in Walcott, they dug in and fought back.

    Re Post 20

    Chelsea drew with Barcelona in the Nou Camp 0-0 and drew at Stamford Bridge 1-1.

  • Comment number 55.

    #4 barca stuttering? joker
    #6 la liga a poor league? joker

  • Comment number 56.

    36. Gadfly "Barcelona's ambidexterity"

    Yes I thought it was impressive the way Ibra was signing autographs with BOTH hands.

    What?!?!?!?!

    Great spirit from Arsenal though, what isn't mentioned in many of the reports is the fact they could have had a couple of goals in the first half. As someone else wrote Barca seem weak on the right and Nasri exploited this many times.

  • Comment number 57.

    Good game overall.
    Arsenal for sure escaped a more severe punishment in the first half, held on and rode their luck at times,then responded back with 2 goals.
    We have seen performances like these often in Europe where a less dominant team has been able to get something out of the leg, and then gone on to win the other leg.I am a United fan and have seen us play like this every now and then, so I am optimistic that Arsenal can go to Camp Nou and get a win.
    United and Chelsea has both demonstrated before (United over 2 legs, and Chelsea for the most part, until that 93rd minute Iniesta goal) that with exceptional work-rate, Barca can be restricted. I watched Barca's group games and Rubin did exactly that.
    If Arsenal do not get overawed by the moment (like they did yesterday) and can get through the partisan Camp Nou crowd, they have put themselevs in a good position.(Better than 0-2! atleast).
    Here's to both the English sides going through to the semis.

  • Comment number 58.

    It looked like a penalty to me last night,but when you compare it to the ones Chelsea did not get against Inter, then a pretty soft one.

  • Comment number 59.

    Barca were truly awesome. Any team would have had trouble living with them but let's look at the positives. It's 2-2, Barca have both central defenders out for the next match. Arsenal have got nothing to lose. Can Barca really play that well two matches on the trot? It must be frustrating for Barca knowing that they've probably never played that well before away from home, but still couldn't beat an Arsenal side riddled with injuries.

  • Comment number 60.

    20. At 08:31am on 01 Apr 2010, LABSAB9 wrote:
    jay842 wrote:

    "United and Chelsea have also shown recently that Barca can be neutralised"

    Would they be the games that both Chelsea & Man U lost?

    Whoever Barcelona were playing last night would have been all over the place defensively you do not see passing and movement like that very often (infact has anybody seen it before??) Arsenal pride themselves on that style of football and they are superb at it but Barcelona were a different level totally last night to any other football team on this planet.

    As i said before an absolute joy to watch.

    ........................................................................

    to refresh your memory, after an 0-0 draw at Camp Nou Man U went on to win 1-0 at OT to progress to the CL final in 2008.

    Also Chelsea would have surely won it had it not been the poor refereeing in last season CL semi-final at the Bridge.

    Yes it can be done.

  • Comment number 61.

    Messi so awful last night proved he can be stopped i didnt even see him get a sniff of the ball apart from a 30 sec glipse of him. You can talk about the stastics all you want but the facts are facts barca only scored two goals yes it could have be a 4-0 5-0 nil thrashing to some peoples extint but all really what barca did was just pass the ball round us and fail to score those chances.

    Imbrahovic goals were possibly the easiest goals to ever we practically gifted him the space and time to score through our awful defending and goalkeeping we should have been avoided.

    We came back from two goals down we showed we had some spirit and fighting resastaince in the game which i dont think many teams could do. Barca are not amazing or untouchable yesterday proved you can get at barca if you just use the right tactics and have the mental belief in youselfs to do it.

  • Comment number 62.

    Is Chelsea greater if they made Barcelona turn to playing basketball because they only had one chance in 185 minutes of football ?!! What with Bacary,Glichy and the crocked Gallas of course Barca were on song, but a mean mean defence like Chelsea's and they start playing what they know even better - basketball !! Of course they need an Overbo to do that too.

  • Comment number 63.

    It is all very well to claim Bendtner made two " assists " but you miss my point. At this level and against such skillfull opposition we need our players to work dam hard even when they dont have the ball.

    You have to at least attempt to chase down the ball and harrass defenders not just be in position to score as an example I give you Trevez! he scores but he also hunts for the ball, he hustles the keepers etc etc workrate is phenominal, as is rooneys.

    Bendtner as has been said could not even hold the ball up that well. i was concerned to see him just trotting about making little or no attempt
    to win balls back, harrass the defence etc.

    i've no wish to slate the guy just because he misses chances, i am not expecting him to score every opportunity he gets but i would like to see him put a lot more effort and indeed conviction into the other side of his game, that being, when not with ball, help one's Hoppo's, i do not see Bendtner doing that to often.

  • Comment number 64.

    I don't think Arsenal should be written off just yet...

    Very few players in red had a great night last night; I'd say the full backs did ok but got no cover from a lazy/injured Ashavin and Nasri who will play the Fab position in Camp Nou. Vermaelen did ok too but was at fault for the second; Song was brilliant as usual, considering he was along side a half fit Fab and Diaby who was completely bereft of sharpness, and got moved to centreback without notice. Nasri was good going forward, Bendtner won alot of flick-ons (which Theo/Eboue will do better with than Arshavin).

    Basically, if the full backs get more protection and the centre of midfield is more organised to press Barca, Arsenal have a chance.

    For the whole game, and especially the last 30 minutes, Barca looked vulnerable to the counter, if and when they lost possession (so not the first 25 minutes then!), and Arsenal's pace and strength could make this a decent tactic on the huge pitch in Catalunya.

    Don't lose faith Gooners, it was a masterclass from Barca (perhaps the finest half-hour of football I've ever seen), but Arsenal can do much much better...

  • Comment number 65.

    So, having played the second best team in the world, now Arsenal face the very best on Saturday.......




    ....seriously, what do you think Wenger will do about the Wolves game? Gallas and Fabregas will be out, Arshavin most likely too. The rest will be shattered - does he risk more injuries? Does he expect his youth team to beat us?

  • Comment number 66.

    Even as an Arsenal fan, I had to admire the first half from Barca. It was the best first half performance I have witnesses in aged. Every Barca player seemed to have a magic first touch, at times it was like watching robots. While Messi, Ibra and Xavi are rightly praised, the likes of Busquets, Alves and Pedro also have an incredible first touch and immense confidence in their play.

    It was the most dominant display against an English side since Real mesmerised United 3-1 in Madrid. Like that game, the English side had a better second half than the first.

    Like that game, I expect the spanish side to progress.

  • Comment number 67.

    Phil decent blog. What are your thoughts on how the loss of Pique and Puyol will offset Barca's defence?

    Despite being outplayed most of the first half, Arsenal still managed to put in the odd dangerous cross, not to mention the countless probes in the last 25 mins of the match, and I for one am cautiously optimistic that we will have the chances to score at the Nou Camp. Obviously the key to beating Barca, or any good team, is to be as clinical as possible when the opportunities arise, and above all keep the back 4 disciplined.

  • Comment number 68.

    pepexabibarnes - joker

    barca destroyed arsenal 2 all

    real madrid destroyed who?

    3rd in spain are 21 points behind barca and real, yeah some league that is.

    and where are the other spanish teams in champs league? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    those are the facts, FACT.

  • Comment number 69.

    Because Messi didn't turn up last night, does that mean he's not a big game player?

  • Comment number 70.

    Gharvey - I don't know what you were looking at but Puyol was not goal side of fabregas. Fabregas had the ball in front of him and Puyol was clearly behind him. Personally I don't think he did it on purpose but if a player goes to take a shot and you run into the back of them, catching the leg they are swinging to kick the ball, therefore tripping them over, without touching the ball yourself, then thats a foul isnt it? and in the box its a penelty

  • Comment number 71.

    Having recovered from what I would termed a "mild" streak of "dumbfoundedness", I wake up to find out that it was not a nightmare watching my team get pummeled by Barcelona last night.

    To be honest, I was sweating after the first half and when you have all that possession and chances and you go into the half 0-0 then you know that you will rue those misses, ask Arsenal- they know better than most what happens when you dont put teams away.

    By the way, Phil, i was expecting your double standard to show again at Arsenal, How many times have you castigated Arsenal for not putting the opposition away- now the tables are reversed and all you do is "wax the lyrical on Barcelona".

    I would have expected you to sing the praises of Arsenal's resilience which this season has been immense, I believe Wenger when he says that the team is actually maturing.

    Arsenal fans dont loose hope, I take people's point that Arshavin, Gallas and Fabregas may be missing for the 2nd leg but to be fair its only Gallas that we would truly miss as while he was still on the field the score was 0-0, and had he been at the defence instead of Song, Barcelona would not have had their gift of the 2 goals. Phew Munia!!

    I expect Arsenal to take the hand brake off in the second leg - its not over till the fat lady sings!

  • Comment number 72.

    Good article Phil.

    Have to agree with a lot that if it wasn't for some great saves from Almunia in the first half the game would have been dead and buried after 45 minutes. But credit to Arsenal that they're still in the tie.

    Yes Barca will miss Puyol and Pique in the return. But the real question is will they miss them as much as Arsenal are going to miss Fabregas, Gallas and possibly Arshavin? I doubt it somehow. They are 3 of Arsenal's best players. Barca didn't have Iniesta last night but didn't seem to miss him too much. And I think they'll have more than enough to cope with the losses of Puyol and Pique. Arsenal on the other hand could be in for a tough game at Camp Nou.

    As everyone always says, anything can happen in football but even with their 2 first choice centre backs missing you've still got to favour Barca.

  • Comment number 73.

    Barcelona probably should've been 2 or 3 up by the time they did score. The second goal seemed to make them relax and Arsenal came back strongly. The penalty was a terrible descision, very little in the typically biased British media about it this morning though.

  • Comment number 74.

    How sad that the memory of such a glorious game is soured by Arsenal fans calling the article an Arsenal hating or baiting one,for heavens sake be honest in that first half only a majestic performance by Almunia precvented the Barcelona masterclass being crowned by 3 or 4 goals.Just be proud that your team fought back well but admit that you were good overall and Barcelona were as magical as any side I have seen since the Brazilian immortals of 1970

  • Comment number 75.

    Is this a big April fool? I watched the first 60 minutes and can't believe it ended 2-2.

  • Comment number 76.

    In terms of injuries you have to admit poor Arsenal do have the most awful luck;they still miss Robin Van Persie. I admire Arsenal alot and love to watch them play. Fabregas limping about was a sad sight to see, hope he has not broken his leg because that will be another one to add to the Arsenal list. I believe that had Arsenal kept an injury free squad over the last two years they would have easily won the title. The Nou Camp with its racists' supporters( Remember Lewis Hamilton) will be a very tough call, I wish them all the luck in the world because they will need it - mentally though they are strong.

  • Comment number 77.

    This was one of the truly great games to watch, an absolute joy from start to finish. Barcelona were absolutely dazzling for the first twenty minutes but the thing that really impressed me about them was how Guardiola has got them pressing as soon as they lose the ball. People have gone on and on about how Arsenal need a big, physical presence in their midfield, well they had Diaby and Song in midfield yesterday and got completely over ran, it was only when the more mobile Denilson came on that Arsenal started to get back into it. Barcelona showed the key to defending from attack and midfield last night, it was like watching a really great 5-a-side team how they would sprint back behind the ball and start pressing as a team in 2's or 3's. My estimation of Guardiola has gone up so much after last night. I always thought he was a good coach but he had also inherited a very strong Barcelona team and has been wasteful in the transfer market but last night showed how well he can get a team playing.

    Who knows what his intentions for the future are but if he could coach at Arsenal one day with Wenger taking a director of football role, that would be an unbeatable combination although I have doubts as to whether Wenger's ego would allow this behind-the-scenes role which I think may actually suit him best.

    For me, Xavi demonstrated why he is the best player in the world right now. I don't think I've ever seen him have a bad game. Messi and Ronaldo get the plaudits but they blow hot and cold and can sometimes get marked out the game when up against a pacy defender eg. Clichy. The problem with football is that we often tend to over indulge players like Messi and Ronaldo and under appreciate players like Xavi. His decision making is possibly the best I've ever seen and this is what makes him great. He's not the strongest, not the quickest, not the best dribbler (though pretty darn good) but his passing is unbelievable, his decisions and his workrate are superb and he never over-indulges. I could go on forever about what makes him great and will happily do so because until people realise that this guy is the model footballer we will never come close to producing an English version of him.

    How many dribblers do we produce in England know when to release the ball? or can spot a pass? or aren't put on the wing but in the centre of midfield, or will track back and tackle rather than sulk and say they're the "playmaker"?. I literally can't name one. One day I hope we do produce one but I think it will not be anytime soon.

  • Comment number 78.

    ps, Phil,

    In both your blog and match report you say Ibrahimovic missed an open goal. Are you aware he was offside? I know it makes little difference, but if you're going to mention Ibra, you could at least make it sound like Nasri's curler wasn't Arsenal's only chance. How about saying how Valdes wonderfully blocked from a close-range Bendtner volley after it hit Alves arm, before it being unwittingly cleared off the line by Sergio Busquetts from Bendtners follow up...

    Of course, all this happenned after Bendtner was rightly flagged offside!

  • Comment number 79.

    Phil,

    I say this with the greatest respect in the world for your lofty position..... but what you know about goalkeeping could be written on the back of a fag packet.

    If you are telling me that Almunia should have stayed on his line at the start of the second half then I'm telling you that you are 100% wrong. If anything his error was not following through his decision (which was correct) fully and clattering the forward taking the ball and getting his knee up into the strikers chest.

    What a good side Barcelona are though eh? Quality team.

    One thing that has not been noted either is how Arsenal got opened up less once Arshavin had been replaced. He doesn't track back at all and for the first half hour, everytime Maxwell stepped into midfield, he was untracked giving Barca an extra man. That meant that Sagna couldn't get in as tight as he would have liked to his centre backs (for fear of leaving even more space for Maxwell to raid into) and created gaps in the Arsenal back four.

    As good a player as Arshavin undoubtedly is, his laziness at times in the bigger games hinders Arsenal in my view.

  • Comment number 80.

    #47 - greavesy

    Barca were lucky to win the CL last season??? What utter guff... on what basis? Because it took them until the dying minutes to beat a 'star-studded' Chelsea line up that happily conceded possession even against 10-men?? Or is this based on another deluded notion such as Fletcher not being available for the final?

    Away and lie down you halfwit.

  • Comment number 81.

    Probably 3-3 is the only way Arsenal can get through. More likely to be 5-1 or something though. Arsenal should be able to score goals though with 2 centre halfs out and players like Eboue and Walcott running at the defence. Hopefully Arshavin can make it.

  • Comment number 82.

    Hey Oz Jock - get your head out of the sand. If Puyol ran into the back of Fabregas then he (Fabregas) wouldn't even have had the chance to take a swing at the ball but would instead have tumbled forward (laws of physics apply here) and then that would have been a nailed on pen. Fact is he WAS IN FRONT of him when Fabregas attempted to shoot not behind him as you would have us believe and what Fab ended up doing was taking a swing at a ball that wasn't there and caught Puyol between the legs and fell over. This as a consequence of the connection between him and Puyol (when both were moving in a forward direction) which is going to have only one out come and that was for Fab to go down. So whether you're an Arsenal fan or not Oz Jock you should take of the Arsene Wengers gregorys and call it for what it was.

  • Comment number 83.

    A great Barcelona side outplayed and outclassed an average Arsenal side.
    Simple as that.

  • Comment number 84.

    Seems like we are in real danger of having no English teams in the semis for the first time since 2003. Are the "glory" days of having 2 or 3 in the semis over?

  • Comment number 85.

    @ 63davidgilmourthe3rd

    What!!

    "Bendtner as has been said could not even hold the ball up that well. i was concerned to see him just trotting about making little or no attempt
    to win balls back, harrass the defence etc."

    Again What!!

    i beg to differ did you watch the same match like I did, first of all you have to have the ball to hold on to it and we simply did not have that and that is not Bendtner's fault, Bendtner was as effective as Ibra was in the first half.

    I could count at least 5 times that Bendtner used his skill to hold up the ball in the second half, have you forgotten when he took on 3 players on the right side of the pitch.

    In football an assist is almost as good as a goal,without one the other cannot happen.

    Get behind your team mate!!

  • Comment number 86.

    Prediction: No English club will reach the final in Madrid.

  • Comment number 87.

    What a great game of football!

    As everyones mentioned Barcelona looked great in the first half hour or so but if you don't take your chances it can come back to haunt you. Great fightback and nice use of the subs by Wenger.

    For me, it was definately a penalty. Don't think it was on purpose but he stops Cesc getting a shot on goal; and from 6 yards out I can't see how anyone can deny that he had a chance to score should he have hit it, so red card was correct.

    Can't wait until they meet again at the Nou Camp.

  • Comment number 88.

    Well done to Arsenal from a Utd fan. Although this gives them hope, I feel Barcelona will eventually progress. Arsenal have lost Fabregas, Gallas and possibly Arshavin and Barcelona will be very strong at home. Arsenal did expose a weakness in Barcelona though. After exerting themselves for long periods of the game they were getting very tired and Walcott exploited this on the right-wing.

  • Comment number 89.

    Messi took it easy last night but could still be the best player for the gooners if he wore an Arsenal Shirt. He made simple passes and kept Song running, pulled Song out of position and took him places Song did not want to go. Did you see the relief on Songs face when he was moved to centre half.
    Messi was in second gear on purpose. At camp Nou, infront of his fans, he will be in fifth gear. I would not like to be Song on that day.
    So nice to see Ibrahimovich shutting up the English press once and for all! English press, did you see the real Zlatan??

  • Comment number 90.

    To El genius es cesc fabregas...an article slating Arsenal?

    "There should, however, be pride for Wenger in the strength, spirit and courage of his team..."

    Not true to say I have slated Arsenal. And to answer another poster, yes I have been critical of Arsenal this season, and rightly so, but not last night.

    The scoreline, and I think plenty of fair-minded Arsenal fans on here have already recognised this, was not in any way an accurate reflection of the game, or Barcelona's superiority.

    Arsenal were outclassed for great swathes of the match, but there was no shame in that because the first 25 minutes in particular were just magical. Who could have lived with Barca? Have you ever seen a more one-sided opening without the team in charge actually scoring a goal?

    Strangely enough, I remember Arsenal starting a Champions League quarter-final at Liverpool like that (not as quite as good admittedly) and eventually losing 4-2.

    I give Arsenal great credit for hanging in there and somehow getting a draw out of this game. The odds are hugely against them, but they travel to Barcelona with a chance. Plenty of teams would have gone under at 2-0 down, but they showed resolve to dig their way out of trouble.

    edgunner makes a very valid point about Barcelona. They do not just play football of the purest kind, they work so hard to make it happen. It may look easy but it is not - and Xavi is world class. He makes everything tick.

    Arsene Wenger made it sound very much like Theo Walcott would start in the Nou Camp, saying the wide pitch will suit his style. This was the Walcott we want to see when he came on last night - and his pace will put doubts in the minds of any defenders.

    And to Nasri_is_the_French_Gooner...I think you are tempting fate to be so dismissive of Messi. A great player who wins game. Maybe not last night, but he has and he will.

    Arsenal fans, were you able to admire that opening passage of play despite the punishement your team was taking? And are Barcelona the best team you've seen at the Emirates?

    Let me assure you, even the supposedly cynical members of the media were simply buzzing after watching that first half. It was electric.

    As I have said, it is to Arsenal's eternal credit, and a tribute to their mental strength, that they survived to claim a draw.

    It was a great night and a privilege to be in the stadium to watch it.

    So how can Arsenal get through? What weaknesses can they exploit in Barca's line-up?

  • Comment number 91.

    Was it a display of football’s artistic beauty – or a lesson in how not to win a game?

    Arsenal defended resolutely and Almunia pulled off one of the best displays of his career in the first 45 minutes. Arsenal did what Arsene Wenger always complains about opposition teams doing – they defended well. But for all their hard work in the first stanza – they gifted two goals with school boy errors in the second. The players were at fault, but I think Arsene must take a share of the blame here.

    Song clearly is not a central defender, and playing him there was a woeful miscalculation of the player’s ability. And Fabregas did score the equaliser, but did nothing else all game. He gave the ball away more often than he kept it, and being totally unfit to play he needed the manager to be big enough to stand up to him.

    Arsenal’s spirit was impressive... to come back from 2-0 down is a great achievement. For all the statistics of possession and passes, the only figures that really count are in the goals column and that finished even. Dominance in open play means nothing, it is the score that counts. For all the talk of a great footballing display, just as Arsenal conceded poor goals, Barcelona were two goals to the good and ended up without a win. Is that the sign of a great side? Of course not.
    I think the penalty was a touch fortunate in truth as Puyol has not tried to touch the Arsenal skipper, in fact Cesc on swinging to shoot actually kicks the Barcelona defender... this is on top of a penalty appeal Barcelona had turned down in the first half; so they may well be rueing their luck.

    For all the great passing moves of the match, the real stand out thing for me was the attitude of the players. Barcelona made the most of every little challenge, diving and rolling on the floor in an attempt to get Arsenal players booked. The Gunners are one of the worst for this in the Premier League but they were made to look like amateurs by the professional hood-winkers from Spain! The booking’s soon built up for the home side, and the fact Cesc would be banned (irrelevant now he’s injured) for the return leg is an absolute joke, his tackle was perfect.
    So this was not a display of great football... it was a display from two sides not good enough to win the game. It was frustrating to watch with all the diving, and even more so to see Wenger make silly mistakes that could well lead his team trophy-less for yet another season!

  • Comment number 92.

    GHARVEY - Your admitting that fabregas was taking a swing at the ball, and you admit that his leg got caught between puyols legs, yet you claim puyol was in front of him, what? Please explain this to me, im fairly sure fabrgas wasnt trying to score a backheel. Your contradicting yourself

  • Comment number 93.

    gharvey,
    Was Puyol actually going for the ball? No! So what does that appear in real time? That he was trying to sabotage the goal scorer and thus penalty. This is the reality.

  • Comment number 94.

    Nasri will be gagging to replace Cesc in the centre for us at Camp Nou.
    What a game it will be. Theo will have to shine, and Bendtner will have to battle like he did yesterday!

    Hopefully the 2nd half have showed our players we an EASILY compete with Barca, and we wont spend 45 minutes shuffling about in terror like we did yesterday.

    PS Good job Almunia!!!! He earned his keep yesterday!

  • Comment number 95.

    It was pleasing to see how Barca almost succombed to what little pressure Arsenal put them under once they got their act together. I can see Arsenal potentially pulling this off in the Nou Camp, especially as both Barca's first choice centre backs are out. Attacking wise Barca are sublime, but put their defence under pressure and they start to crack.

    I personally don't think Barca are this immense force they've been hyped up to be after last night.

  • Comment number 96.

    Eddie........

    I agree, I thought Bendtner was excellent last night, he did some great hold up work and he was involved in most of the good things, attacking wise, that Arsenal sis last night.

  • Comment number 97.

    As a neutral i loved this game, Barcelona were brillant and as for arsenal they were good in their own way. But, i think barca will be too superior against arsenal at the nou camp, because if barca dominated at the emirates then imagine what they can do at their home the nou camp.

    I think lionel messi played good and i dont know why people are saying he played terrible because if you saw the game then you would have realised every time he got he ball he was always closed down and always had someone inches away from him, so its unfair to judge him like that. He is the best player in the world and thats not even an issue.

  • Comment number 98.

    Phil

    I didn't see every minute of the game but I think you have called it pretty right. Arsenal are perhaps fortunate to still have a very good chance of going through, as tough as it will be.

    However, I do think that people fawn a little over Barcelona. Their opening to the match was impressive but I've seen it done before, and with an end product. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/4321491.stm

    One little thing though, just for devilment. Commodities can be bought and sold. Walcott's pace can't be bought and sold so shouldn't it be described as an asset rather than a commodity?

    Moving on, I wonder how the possible injuries will impact of Arsenal's league games....

    (p.s. seems like the mods are actually earning their corn this morning as well. Clearly an April Fools joke!)

  • Comment number 99.

    I can't have been the only one watching that match who predicted Arsenal would have a load of ball and opportunities towards the end of that game can I? For all the beuty of Barca's play in the 1st 30 min's as much came from industry as technical ability. We couldn't come back at them 'cause like Phil said they were busting a gut to get the ball back off us every time we had it(the main reason for that possesian statisctic not just ball retention). Thing was after about 25 min's of it it was starting to get pretty clear that not only were they not gonna be able to keep that up but that it was gonna take a lot out of them, hence the acres of space that Walcott found in the 2nd half. Barca played in the way we and other teams sometimes do for the 1st 10 min of a match to try and get the early goal, normally if you get it or 10 min passes the team settles back a bit, Barca kept on going and thats why they both looked so good but also why they conceded two in the end. Fealt a bit like they were doing it to stress their superiorit and in a way it worked, on the other hand we showed why despite having far less possesian in the champions league as a whole we've actually managed to out score them over all.

  • Comment number 100.

    Barcelona could be European Champions for the next 8 years with most of this side. They are that good.

 

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