Barcelona Outplays Arsenal To Reach Champions League Quarter Finals
With a clean display of their possession football Barcelona outclassed Arsenal 3-1 to reach the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions’ League. Trailing 1-2 from the first leg in Emirates three weeks ago, Barcelona managed to just win the tie finishing 4-3 in aggregate. Despite overall dominance of the Catalan side the match swayed back and forth between the two teams before Messi killed the match with a penalty.
With both Puyol and Pique missing from injury and suspension respectively, Barcelona started the game with Busquets and Abidal holding the two centre back positions and Dani Alves and Adriano covering the flanks. Arsenal missed Walcott and Song with Rosicky and Diaby taking their place in the team. Barcelona dominated the possession from the beginning of the match and in the first 6 minutes of play Arsenal held possession for only 25 seconds. However, the Catalans had to wait more than 45 minutes before they could get the much-needed first goal. Barcelona had a penalty claim in the first half when it looked like Messi was fouled inside the box that the referee ignored. It was Messi himself who took them forward in the injury time of the first half when he received a killer pass from Iniesta behind the defender and beat substitute goalkeeper Almunia with a fine chip over him before hitting into empty post.
Second half started more lively as Arsenal tried to create chances for themselves as they needed at least a goal to get something from the tie. But Barcelona took a hold on the game within 5 minutes. However, Arsenal managed to get a corner in the 53rd minute and Busquets headed the ball from a Nasri corner kick into his own net to put Arsenal back in the game. Barcelona continued to get frustrated in front of Arsenal defence and a rock-solid goalkeeping from Almunia, who came in when first goalkeeper Szczesny was injured from a harmless looking Alves freekick. However, Robin Van Persie received second yellow in the 56th minute for kicking out the ball after the whistle was blown for offside. It was, surely, a very harsh decision as it was very much possible that Van Persie missed the whistle in such huge crowd. The sending off killed the little Arsenal had to play in the game and the rest of the match continued to be dominated by Barcelona. Xavi led the comeback for Barça when he scored off an Iniesta pass in the 69th minute. Within the next two minutes, Barcelona got the match winning goal when Messi coolly converted a penalty when koscienly fouled Pedro inside the box.
Barcelona created a lot more chance in the last twenty minutes too, but could not get past Almunia anytime again. Arsenal got the best chance of the day when Wilshere found Bendtner ahead of the defence line but Bendtner could not capitalise from as he had a poor first touch and Mascherano dispossessed him with a sliding challenge. The dominance of Barça can be felt with their 78% possession of the ball and more from the fact that they had 19 attempts to Arsenal’s none. Arsenal badly missed the speed of Walcott and their game was hurt severely due to ineffectiveness of their talismanic midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who apparently played with slight injury from the 15th minute of the game.
The quarter final fixtures will be finalised on 18th March after the second round matches complete and Barcelona and Shakhtar Donetsk, who defeated AS Roma 3-0 tonight (6-2 on aggregate), are the first names in the list. The matches will be played on 5-6 April and 12-13 April.
Pep Guardiola (coach):
We overcame a lot of different situations. We played well both here and in London. Arsenal could not complete even 3 passes, we put in such pressure. If you can prevent a great team like Arsenal from shooting on goal, it shows we played a great game.
Wenger told me to congratulate the referee after the game. I can understand Wenger’s complaints, a frustrating red card. But if he wants to talk football, always welcome.
Why wouldn’t we finish the game? We had the chances but we suffered. In the end we won, the most important thing. The team is very happy. The fans helped us a lot, we felt supported.
Arsene Wenger (coach):
Frustrated about the refereee, he killed the game. But we lost against a great Barcelona, congratulations to them. I’m convinced we could have won the game without the red card. Surprised Barcelona didn’t get one yellow? No. And I won’t say more. Barcelona dominated but we played well in the 1st half. And in the 2nd half we were coming into the game.
Robin Van Persie:
Red card was unfair, I didn’t hear the whistle. My shot came just a second after the whistle, not 6 or 7. The refereeing was a total joke.
It’s a shame, it wasn’t to be like this. Barcelona played great, we almost didn’t have the ball. Nevertheless I’m proud of the team. After 15 minutes, I already felt something and I knew my game was over. In the end, I couldn’t hold anymore.
(On Twitter) Great support from the arsenal fans. I take full blame for the result. One of the worst moments of my life. I apologise.