The Gunners put in a brave performance last night to give themselves some sort of a hope in the return leg in three weeks’ time, but they were undone in the end by the brilliance of the Catalans’ attacking triumvirate of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez. Barcelona’s front three were unstoppable on the night, and the north Londoners did a good job of containing them until the final twenty minutes.
Messi’s opener came in the 71st minute, when he punished the hosts in a swift counter-attacking move where Neymar’s acceleration put it on a platter; he was waiting for Petr Cech to fall before lifting it over him for a lead in a pivotal moment.
There was to be further damage for Arsenal, when their late substitute Matheiu Flamini brought down the little maestro after just coming on; the Argentine, who was the Man - of - the – Match, stroked it from the penalty spot to the left corner, to really swing the tie fully in Barcelona’s favour in the 83rd minute, as he put the result beyond doubt to 2-0. This was Messi’s 82nd goal in the UEFA Champions League, his eighth against Arsenal.
The home team had their fair share of chances; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, starting a rare match for Arsenal in the highest of stakes, went close but missed a huge opportunity after Barcelona’s goalkeeper Marc-André ted-Stegen saved well. Another chance came from Olivier Giroud, whose presence was preferred to the pace of Theo Walcott up front.
Petr Cech’s performance was excellent; he did a superb point-blank stop from a Neymar header at the death.
Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger will take some positives from the performance; they produced a disciplined display for over three-quarters of the match where they managed to contain Barcelona at bay despite their huge seventy percent of the possession.
But in the end the Gunners were unable to cope with the might of the Catalan giants, and all that will be left to complete in three weeks is the formalities, as Arsenal will surely be stretched on their wide pitch in Barcelona. The Gunners went out of the competition to Barcelona in 2010 and 2011 so there chances will be more or less written off at this stage after this defeat; but, who knows. #Football