The match began with Arsenal ‘getting stuck in’ and whilst Barca had a lot of possession we seemed to mean business. Clichy, Nasri and Diaby all gave away free kicks before Koscielny was booked on 15 minutes. Whilst Barca continued to dominate as expected, I always felt that if we could keep it to 0-0 at half time then we had a very good chance of going through. On 18 minutes Szczesny injured his finger whilst making an important save and this was the first sign that things might not go our way. The sign of Almunia coming on didn’t fill me with confidence.
Arsenal continued to play hard and it was nice to see a battling performance. Van Persie seemed fired up and was lucky not to be booked earlier in the first half, team mates Sagna and Wilshere weren’t so lucky and their names went in the book on 28 and 35 minutes respectively. At this point I still had belief that we could go on to get through the tie, we were winning the physical battle and it reminded me of Premiership games where we dominated but couldn’t capitalise on the domination, except this time it was Barca who were being frustrated.
Van Persie’s aggressive approach earned him the inevitable card on 45 minutes but I still saw this as a sign of our passionate and hard working approach. We had almost made it to half time without conceding, the 5 minutes of injury time needed mainly due to Szczesny’s injury wasn’t welcome but was correct. Unfortunately 2 minutes into the injury time Messi scored. Barca were rewarded for their possession and things weren’t looking so rosy.
I watched the second half without much expectation, if I am totally honest, I expected Barca to go on and win comfortably. So when 7 minutes into the second half Busquets headed into his own goal I was pleasantly surprised. Suddenly my hopes were up again. We had the vital away goal and Barca looked shocked. The momentum was now going our way, 3 minutes after the goal Van Persie went through on goal and took his shot only to be flagged offside. The ref deemed the shot to be kicking the ball away, Van Persie was sent off and the momentum was lost. Van Persie had been riding his luck earlier in the game with spats with Alves in particular, perhaps he could already have been sent off for some of his challenges, but there is no way that his second yellow should have been a booking. Another sign that things weren’t going our way.
Barca then dominated the rest of the game, we defended well but on 68 and 70 minutes the inevitable second and third Barca goals came. Fabregas’ back heel on the edge of the area and Koscielny’s foul to give away a penalty were costly mistakes. Just two minutes later we conceded again and it was game over. Wenger made his remaining two substitutions bringing on Arshavin and Bendtner on 73 and 76 minutes respectively but by then the tie was already Barca’s. Arsenal were out of the Champions League.
Discuss the match here: