Luis Enrique delighted as Barca extend record unbeaten run
By Mike Collett
LONDON (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Luis Enrique was impressed with the way his team performed in their Champions League win at Arsenal on Tuesday, which extended their club record unbeaten run to 33 games.
The holders won the last 16 first leg tie 2-0 with second-half goals from Lionel Messi, including a penalty, as they moved closer to becoming the first team to lift the European Cup in successive seasons since AC Milan in 1989 and 1990.
"I liked everything from the very beginning," Luis Enrique told reporters. "We had plenty of possession, we defended very well and we managed Arsenal's transitions (counter-attacks) very well.
"They are one of the best teams in the world with their transitions, but we coped with them, kept the game level and then turned it in our favour.
"I liked everything that we did tonight and we were the deserved winners. We dealt with Arsenal's pressure really well in the second half and my players coped perfectly the whole match."
The one blemish on Barcelona's performance was a yellow card for defender Gerard Pique after 85 minutes which means he misses the return at the Nou Camp on March 16, leaving him with a clean slate for a probable quarter-final in April.
After Messi scored from the spot to put Barca 2-0 ahead, Pique went to the touchline and had a quick conversation with the coach as the pair covered their mouths with their hands.
Soon after that Pique went rushing in with a late lunge on Arsenal substitute Danny Welbeck and was booked by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir.
However, Luis Enrique denied any skullduggery.
"No, it was not a deliberate foul by Gerard Pique, he had to commit that foul," he said. "There was nothing deliberate about it at all."
(Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Ken Ferris)