Barça 3 Arsenal 1 (Barça win 4-3 on aggregate)

Barça reached the quarter finals of the Champions League with an excellent performance over an Arsenal side that proved tough to break through. We had to wait until injury time in the first half to see Messi open the scoring, and when Sergio Busquets headed into his own net early in the second half we had a difficult task ahead but this was assisted by the stupidity of Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie who got himself sent off for two pointless yellow card offences. Xavi put the tie level at 3-3 in the 69th minute, and with Arsenal looking on the back foot Messi scored the winner from the penalty spot after Pedro was brought down by Koscielny. Arsenal didn’t have a shot all night but they gave us a scare in the 87th minute when Adriano gave the ball away but fortunately when the ball came in to Bendtner his first touch was poor and Mascherano was allowed the chance to intercept brilliantly. It was a moment that showed that despite our clear dominance in play Arsenal could have nicked it in the end and we would only have had ourselves to blame. As it was we can look back on a fine performance and a deserved victory.

The only surprise in Pep Guardiola’s line-up was the inclusion of Adriano instead of Maxwell at left back though this made very little difference to how we played as we stuck very much to our normal 4-3-3 formation with the unusual pairing of Busquets and Abidal in central defence. Arsenal came out biting but Barça had possession from the start though we had problems early on finding time to do anything dangerous with the ball. The Arsenal defence was playing very high which meant there was very little space in the middle though it always looked likely that sooner or later we would find the pass through for Messi or Villa to get a run on goal. The first time came in the 13th minute but Koscielny showed great pace to get across and deny Messi. We needed to be very precise in our play as Arsenal were giving very little space but on one decent looking attack Villa failed to control Alves’s pass into a dangerous position.

Then in the 16th minute the Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny injured a thumb stopping an innocent long shot from Alves and Manuel Almunia had to come on in his place to my great relief as I was worried that having to write the impossible name Szczesny too often would drive me crazy. With the space between the two high defences being so reduced there were bound to be some sparks as the tackles went in, Alves gave both Fabregas and Nasri something to remember him by, and Van Persie showed the first signs of losing his cool with a foul on Messi after 27 minutes. Messi reacted by immediately getting more involved, first combining with Xavi in an attack where the ball broke to Pedro for the best chance so far but Pedro’s left foot curler went well wide. Then Messi dribbled past three in the area only to be denied but the long stretched leg of Djorou. This was immediately followed by a pretty strong shout for a penalty after Messi appeared to be fouled by Koscielny but the ref who was only a couple of metres away waved play on. We were piling on the pressure now and Villa broke through though Djorou did enough to stay with him and Villa couldn’t get power on his shot, then Adriano overlapped Villa on the left before firing a cross/shot against the outside of the near post.  

Just before half time Mascherano and Wilshire went for the same ball and the Arsenal man stayed down injured, this was followed by some pushing and shoving with Van Persie involved with Abidal and Busquets, it wasn’t easy to see everything that happened but Abidal gave Van Persie a push in the throat that didn’t please him too much. A couple of minutes later when play resumed Van Persie was immediately involved in a deliberate attempt to catch Dani Alves in the face, the fact that he only clipped Alves doesn’t take away the fact that it was deliberate and Van Persie was lucky to only get a yellow card. I was worried that the stoppages would break our stride but it was Arsenal who lost concentration. First Iniesta broke away before finding Messi who did what he does best by cutting inside two challenges but his final shot was not so brilliant and Almunia saved easily. Our insistence meant that we were often winning back the ball in Arsenal’s half and just before half time Iniesta stole the ball 30 yards out and with a quick dribble and pass found Messi who managed to flick the ball over Almunia’s flapping lunge before volleying past Djorou on the line.

It was a fine goal to end a fascinating first half battle but Arsenal knew they would have to change something in the second half as they had not come close to Victor Valdes’s goal at all. In the first half Nasri was playing virtually at left back in what often looked like a 5-3-2 formation, early in the second half, however, he managed one long run up the left wing and despite the attention of thre of our players he succeeded in winning a corner. When the cross came in there seemed to be little danger but Busquets misread the flight of the ball and was horrified to see his header fly past Valdés. Villa had an immediate chance to put us back in front on the night but Almunia saved again. This was soon followed by Van Persie’s sending off. Of course he will be upset that he could receive a yellow card just for shooting after the whistle had blown, but I don’t believe he didn’t hear the whistle and he only has himself to blame for trying to waste time. It may have been a little harsh but he could easily have gone in the first half.

With Arsenal down to ten men we had them completely pinned back. Villa was denied twice more by Almunia and Alves shot over after a great build up. Arsenal couldn’t hold on, in the 69th minute Iniesta went on another run before slipping the ball in to Villa who gave the faintest of touches on to Xavi who slipped the ball under Almunia to make it 2-1 on the night and all square overall. However, we were on a roll now and Xavi found another pass into Pedro who was brought down by Koscielny and this time the ref had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Messi left Almunia standing from 12 yards to make it 4-3 overall.

Messi and Afellay had chances to score again and Alves twice failed to connect with Messi for the final pass. It looked as if we could score the fourth at any time but in the 87th minute Adriano gave the ball away in our own half, Arsenal swept forward with the ball coming into Bendtner but we were lucky that the substitute had a poor first touch and Mascherano slid in to make a crucial tackle. It gave us a few nervy minutes at the end but the players kept their composure and continued to frustrate Arsenal with some brilliant possession football, Arsenal tried to get forward but Victor Valdés was not troubled again.

This was a very important victory and we can now begin to talk in fairness about the possibilities of another treble. Arsenal were better than last season but I think that they will admit that we were better over the two legs, though I’m sure they will want to dispute Van Persie’s sending off. We had some doubts before the game and being without both Puyol and Piqué was worrying. However, we now know why Pep Guardiola did not sign another central defender, he already knew the potential of Busquets to play at centre back and he was one of the few who had confidence in playing Abidal there. In the end the signing of Mascherano has been perfect, it allows Busquets to be used in other positions and Mascherano had an excellent game tonight in midfield. A lot of us thought the squad looked short but with the 14 who played tonight plus Pinto, Piqué and Puyol we have the group that has Guardiola’s confidence. Milito seems to be on his way out and Bojan is now definitely a place below Afellay in the pecking order.

Barça: Valdes 6.5; Alves 7, Busquets 6, Abidal 8, Adriano 6.5 (Maxwell m91,–); Xavi 8, Mascherano 8 (Keita m88,–), Iniesta 8; Pedro 7, Messi 8.5, Villa 6.5 (Afellay m82 6.5).

Arsenal: Szczesny (Almunia m19), Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Diaby, Rosicky (Arshavin m73), Fabregas (Bendtner m78), Nasri, Van Persie.

Goals: m45+3 Messi 1-0, m52 Busquets o.g. 1-1, m69 Xavi 2-1, m71 Messi (pen) 3-1

Yellow cards: m15 Koscielny, m29 Sagna, m38 Wilshire. m45 Van Persie, m56 Van Persie (=red).

Attendance: 95,486

Referee: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)

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This entry was posted in Champions League, Leo Messi, Match reports, Xavi Hernandez and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Barça 3 Arsenal 1 (Barça win 4-3 on aggregate)

  1. Hilal says:

    What a game.

    What a team.

    They leave me speechless. The way they work for each other is out of this world. Arsenal, the best attacking team in the “best league in the world” had 0 (thats right) shots on goal in the whole game. Not even a shot OFF target. Nothing. It took an own goal for them to score.

    Oh and Messi’s goal was insane. That touch to take it over the keeper was just mind boggling. I thought it was a lucky bounce or something at first, but he meant it. Just wow.

  2. visionsport.TV says:

    Barca were absolutely brilliant tonight. But the red card was a disgrace. referees are ruining football . . . http://wp.me/p14o8R-6y
    FIFA must do something to protect the integrity of our game!

  3. Lockie17 says:

    Great win and were in the hat for the Quarter Finals, as Nic said we are on for another treble.
    Great performance tonight, we moved the ball well attacked in numbers but most impressively the way we chased and put pressure on Arsenal high up the pitch was the most impressing part for me.
    Though everyone tonight played well, special credit must go to Javier Mascherano he was excellent and the crowd fully appreciated his performance from the reception he got when he left the field after the match saving tackle.
    Afellay looked better when he come on, good on the ball and unlucky with he 2 efforts at goal.
    On the Van Persie red card, it was harsh but he could easily have been sent off for raising his hands to Alves. The red card would of effected the result IMO.
    All in all great performance and credit to Pep and the players for not allowing Arsenal to play how they normally play.
    On a negative side i am getting a little concerned about our charitable form of late in front of goal, not matter how much we dominated tonight Arsenal were still one goal away from knocking us out and if it wasn’t for Mascherano’s tackle on Bedntner who knows what would of happened.

    Anyone know what type of reaction Cesc got when he come off? i missed that part.
    Also thought Jack Wiltshire looked more impressive than Cesc tonight and wouldn’t mind him instead of Cesc next season.

  4. layibiyi says:

    CONGRATS to all

    @hilal, even the bottom placed team in la liga would have at least mustered a shot. . . the so called attacking force couldnt get off just a shot, any shot..

    english people always make a fuss about referee decisions, do you ever wonder why barca hardly push their cases about refereeing decisions against us. . . against inter last year, a lot of decisions went against us but we hardly mentioned it. now because of van persie’s ‘harsh’ red card, there’s another furore. nobody will mention how koscieny should have been sent off a long time ago or the penalty we should have been awarded or the poor decisions in the first leg. . . we accept our losses graciously, they should learn to do the same

    @lockie, i’m also worried about the way we waste these chances especially in the champions league where its just too risky. instead of ending the match early, we just prolong it giving the opposition some hope of an away goal or something. hope we get our clinical game back on.

    congrats once again to everyone. . . the better team by far won

  5. Jfan101 says:

    19 shots to 0 is unheard of. Both Mascherano and Alves last 2 games have been outstanding Mascherano was a pit bull in mid field and after they dropped to 10 men Alves just ran the right flank and gave fantastic support in our attack. The team deserved this game no more can be said.,,,,

  6. Air says:

    Good work by Barca, and an unusual way of playing by Arsenal, you could see that they main players (Cesc mostly) weren’t really in the game, and that eventually make them just park the bus and go for a 0-0.. the decision of the expulsion was absolutely ridiculous, and completely changed the game but Arsenal could’ve done better

    @layibiyi “we accept our losses graciously, they should learn to do the same” you’re just too funny

  7. caleb says:

    First off, realllyyyy great result. Agree with much of what’s been said.

    But, Alves’ final pass sometimes really pisses me off. Especially today when we had what was a very thin lead. I don’t mean to be too harsh on him. He does get a lot of assists and works really hard. If he could just sharpen up that part of his game a bit (maybe practice shooting some?) he would be unquestionably the best back in the world.

    Adriano’s dribbling sometimes worries me. He get’s his head down and takes on a little more than he can chew. I think I prefer Maxwell.

  8. FCB-Parbo says:

    A well deserved win. I was terrified when Bendtner went towards the goal. For a second it was like my heart was bursting out of my chest. I even had screamed of fear. Omg, that moment was horrible. If Bendtner had scored we would be out of this comp. That stupid Adriano, but thumbsup to Masch and Valdes.

    Really Arsenal played very defensively, but we managed to unluck the wall. It was very strange to see them play like that.

    A BIG THUMBSUP FOR THE WHOLE TEAM.

    Job well done guys. Congrats to all the fans.

  9. MUYIDEEN ABDULGANIYU says:

    Leo Messi proved himself as the best player

  10. barcacentralomer says:

    A terrific result from a match that could have gone either way. While we should be celebrating a glorious win, we should not let the euphoria overshadow some of the mistakes that could have meant the end of our CL campaign last night.

    Like some people have already mentioned, we need to be more clinical upfront and turning our chances into goals because possession and goal attempts don’t win matches -its only goals. I don’t know if its me but Villa seems a bit jaded of late. A shame that Bojan has failed to take the numerous chances and now finds himself behind Afellay. Just hope he continues to work hard because the goals will come eventually.

    We also need to make better use of our dead-ball situations both while defending and attacking. I can’t recall the last time we scored a headed goal off a corner. Our vulnerabilities at the back were exposed through Busquets own goal.

  11. blaugranaboy says:

    not much more to be said on the matter, everyone here has pretty much covered it so ill do it in bullet point:

    – we at times really played some awesome football, very proud

    – but i agree with many above that we are not being clinical enough. its really a shame, villa in particular had chances he should have buried

    – however, villas pass for xavi’s goal was awesome and something he has done in abundance this year

    – alves’s missed assist to messi late was my worst moment of the match. i shouted in some serious anger. then bendtner nearly scored, i almost lost my shit.

    -mascherano was just awesome. he has proven himself, no more doubts what so ever. easily man of the match material.

    -abidal was again stellar. what a man

    -the red card was without question important and harsh. but, i like nic think robin knew he was offside. when it was live i said, “he could be off”. why would he not take it down and try with his left foot rather than some wild half volley with his shit right? he saw abidal and VV stop acting, he knew.

    – i however dont feel sympathy because those calls come and go so much and balance out. abidal red card vs chelsea, then we got a big one with pique’s hand. bojan’s legit goal versus inter. level goal by messi first leg disallowed, messi shout for penalty versus diaby.

    – the stats in this game do not lie. 724 passes to 199. 19 shots on target to zero both on and off.

    -finally, i was disappointed with arsenal’s tactics and approach to the game. i understand completely the rationale and the argument, but this is the one team i thought would never compromise their footballing beliefs. and they did.

  12. barcacentralnic says:

    While I can understand Arsenal’s frustration at the sending off, I can’t help feeling that they are covering up for their failure to play a better game. Yes, they defended very well until half time but they were never likely to keep us out for 90 minutes for a 0-0. The fact that we gifted them a goal is no credit to them and they really should be angry with Van Persie (rather than defending him) for being such a dickhead. I repeat what I said in the report that I’m sure Van Persie heard the whistle (yes there is a big crowd shouting but this is the same every week in the big grounds: the ref’s whistle is curiously designed to be very shrill and loud so that it can be heard) and I can’t understand how Arsenal fans are trying to make something of the fact that the time between the ref’s whistle and Van Persie shooting was “only one second”. If you stop and think about it a second is quite enough time to react (think of how a sprinter can cover ten metres in one second), I imagine that 0.4 or 0.5 sec is enough for a player to stop swinging his leg at the ball. Van Persie’s shot was typical of a player frustrated at being called offside, it was a wild swipe at the ball with no real intention of hitting the target. The ref’s decision to give him a yellow card for this was indeed quite rigorous but perfectly within the regulations.
    The fact that Arsenal failed to have one shot all night and struggled to string more than three passes together is something that should concern Arsene Wenger more than which refereeing decisions may or may not have gone his way this week.

  13. blaugranaboy says:

    i just watched this espnsoccernet presspass show and the dude gave mascherano a 6/10 and said he had quite a poor game. another dude on football365 said mascherano was “pants”. shows that “professional” analysts are well “professional” and that some people just do not understand how to read the whole game and the importance of every single player. annoys me

  14. Evil that men do says:

    Mascherano was brilliant his passing well it’s not the best but he more than makes up for for his hard work.
    I don’t trust Busi at CB at all, was so mad at him for giving that equalizer hope Barca get another English team just so I can hear them cry some more.

    Very convenient for them to forget about the first leg, Inter last year, Chelsea first leg Abidal sending off…
    Konshelny should have been sent of for the winning pen and Messi awarded a Pen for the Diaby challenge I could go on but I’ll stop.

    The finishing really needs to improve, pass/shoot with conviction final third, looking at Alves, Villa can be very wasteful.

    I think we can count on Mascherano he definitively brings steel to the team we have missed since Yaya has gone.

    Thank God Pep started Adriano too.

  15. layibiyi says:

    Good everybody was happy with mascherano…can see people are uncomfortable with busquets in defence..as for me, I’m comfortable with busquets as goalkeeper, coach, false 9…anything

    The clinical issue is really a problem for laliga teams, case study: valencia who created a ton of chances home and away against schalke but still went out. There’s no point in being overly attacking if you won’t take them. The same almosyt happened to us against arsenal and that was what happened to madrid last year.

  16. Caleb says:

    The idea that Busquets heading in on a corner reflects on his play as a CB is not valid. He would be defending like that during a corner kick any game, regardless of his position. I think he’s fine for our 4th or 5th choice CB. Looking to bring someone in for that spot on the bench is a bit of overkill.

  17. bc9jaCulé says:

    It’s not my desire to chip in my remarks so late but honestly, I’ve been bee–busy readin’ every bit about the match from every single site I could access but I post comments ONLY on this site so here it goes.

    ABOUT THE RED:

    Arsenal can grumble all the more if they can afford to but the standin’ fact is that, all their complaints will not and IN FACT, CAN NOT disguise the actual quality of the picture. They should count their lucky stars Howard Webb wasn’t the referee for they would have gotten @ least a red in the first half either for the foul on Messi in the 18 yard box or for RvP’s deliberate shoving of Alves in the face (Liverpool fans and players can attest to this with specific reference to their recent FA cup clash with ManU). Besides, how can they even reproach the referee for following the rules to the letters after sparin’ them on the two aforementioned instances?!

    Some referee gave Abidal an unjustified red against Chelsea 2 seasons ago but that was just normal, RIGHT?!

    Some referee cancelled out Bojan’s swift goal against Inter just last season but that was a just call, RIGHT?!

    Some referee denied Messi’s legit goal in the first leg @ the Emirates but that was fair, RIGHT?!

    For all I care, Arsenal can have my overhead tank for free if all they can do is cry (they’ll have to shed streams of tears to fill it up) about the ref’s decision. Just a reminder, Barça still managed to qualify against Chelsea in the treble season despite the red to Abi on sixty–five minutes so, that’s (RvP’s red) even not an excuse because they seem to be makin’ so much of a big deal about it. Come on Arsenal, aint it EMBARRASSIN’ enough that a team of your calibre — known for it’s complete attackin’ instincts and crusade against anti–football — couldn’t muster a shot both off and on target and instead, parked the luxurious bus that brought them to Camp Nou from their hotel in front of their goal?!?!?!
    The least thing expected of them to do — especially Wenger — is to gracefully embrace their defeat and honourably accept the SACRED TRUTH that they were simply outclassed, outplayed, outwitted and outmaneuvered by Barça and we glaringly evinced the gulf in class that exists between us. More so, the disgraceful MATCH STATISTICS spell the word “SHAME” for Arsenal — EMPHATICALLY.

    ABOUT THE MATCH:

    First off, I must commend our players for showing the world again that Barça is THE ZEAL OF FOOTBALL. Every department, right from the defence to the attack, was near perfection and if not for our overly generous attitude in front of goal (which I seriously hope is addressed and redressed for the better soonest), the eventual scoreline would have been somethin’ like 9 — 1 which would have made a ridiculous understatement of the 5 — 1 I predicted in the preview post.

    And Messi is just, well, MESSI!!! Enough said. No superlative, no matter how pleasant, qualifies him better than his name which is indeed, the BEST superlative for him. Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, ………………… well, the WHOLE TEAM (the coachin’ crew inclusive) gave a respectable account of themselves and I must say Maschete sealed Barça’s qualification with that last minute, injury–threatenin’ tackle to deny Bendtner ample time to regain balance with the ball.

    Would cheerin’ for a second treble in three years be askin’ for too much?! Well, we’ll see just how many trophies we can append to our lot @ the end of May.

    Visca Barça!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Força Barça!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Fredegar says:

    Well, you guys summed it up pretty well.
    So I just want to react to Bboy’s disappointment at the way Arsenal played. I really don’t believe they wanted to play like that, it’s just we were so good we simply didn’t give them a chance to try anything else.
    Imo, Arsene got it wrong tactically, he tried to find a balance between offence and defense and just spectacularly failed, and as a result his team got completely outplayed. He had a far more defensive set up in mind that at the Emirates for sure, but the fact he started with Rosicky shows he wanted to keep the ball and try to build something with it. If his choice was to park the bus, he would have played Eboue who is better defensively and quicker on the counter. Arsenal did not come to park the bus, we forced them to.
    Well, as I’m here, another point that hasn’t been treated too much: Arsene claims the ref robbed his team cos’ his plan was to take advantage of Barça’s tiredness in the last 15 mins. And many Arsenal fans agree on the evidence of the first leg where we admitedly tired at the end of the game. But this was a totally different game: in the first leg, Arsenal pressed us, made us work a lot, and had more of the ball. In this one, they had to run non-stop to cover. In general, teams who allow us possession finish the game burnt, and our goals statistics have always been better in the last fifteen mins. Playing with ten men for twenty minutes obviously took its toll on Arsenal, but seeing they were so finished they couldn’t even try to press in the last ten minutes when they were chasing the tie, I doubt that even with eleven men they would have dominated us physically…

  19. razz8 says:

    Awesome game by the Barcelona football club once again…….by the looks of how things are going right now id say they will definitely take the champions league along with la liga.

  20. barcacentralroger says:

    Really infuriated by Arsene’s suggestions that his team were going to win it – or steal the game – in the latter stages of the second half. Whilst we had run more, they looked dead on their feet; we had rested players over the last week; they had been playing much of their best line up in consecutive crunch matches; finally they were playing two players only just back from injury (or in Cesc’s case clearly not really back from injury). Add to the fact that we’d let up in the last half of the first leg (and the first leg of the match last year) and so let’s be clear if there was one message Pep would have been plying the players with it would be “Don’t let up in the second half”. Ridiculous, straw-clutching excuses.

  21. barcacentralomer says:

    Is it me or has TETMD made a comeback?. @ ETMD: A nice word for Sergei playing out of position in spite of his OG would have been a refreshing change…;)

    I don’t want to repeat myself but please guys lets not get carried away. We still have to play some very good sides in the CL and a Real side that will push us all the way in La Liga. By no means [aside from certain so called media pundits] are we going to stroll to the CL and La Liga titles.

  22. Caleb says:

    I agree with Omer. The CL has a VERRRYYY long way to go. We could still see something like Man U and Chelsea and not even be at the finals yet. The League I feel a bit more sure about, but there’s still a long way to go. And the Copa will not be easy either.

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