Barcelona 3 v Arsenal 1 (4-3 on aggregate)

Can there have been a better team ever? The passing, the moving, the link up play and oh yes the goals. Were we talking about Arsenal, it would have come as no surprise, but after Barcelona did to the Gunners what the Gunners normally do to other sides, it was to be the Catalan side who were to prevail 3-1 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate. Further misery for Arsenal when Robin Van Persie was sent off early in the second half.

Controversial

Lionel Messi was again the protagonist with a goal in either half, and Xavi getting another. A Sergei Buquetts own goal on 53 minutes gave the Gunners hope with a goal that meant that Arsene Wenger’s side would have qualified at 1-1, but Van Persie’s controversial second yellow ensured that Wenger would have to see his side try to defend against a rampant Barcelona for over 35 minutes, a task that proved to be beyond his side who were to register no shots either on or off target in the entire match.

Poor

Van Persie’s red card was very poor refereeing by Swiss official Massimo Bussaca. The Arsenal striker who had been earlier booked for a foul of Danny Alves, was not able to hear the whistle for offside and continued to play and shoot, all of which lasted no more than a second. As he turned around, the referee produced a second yellow and then red card to make what should have been a celebration of football, a completely one sided affair.

Joke

“ It had a big influence, it was a total joke,” fumed Van Persie of his sending off. “ How can I hear his whistle with 95,000 fans in the stadium, you tell me. One second from the whistle it was a joke. He was a joke all evening. I tried to explain there are 95,000 jumping up, how can I hear his whistle?

“ When it was 1-1 it was all to play for. The referee killed the game, I don’t know why he’s here he was whistling against us all night.”

Injury

The evening got off to the worst possible start for Wojiech Szczesny who had to come with a hand injury off after only 18 minutes as he collected a fierce free-kick from Danny Alves. Enter Manuel Almunia, who was to have a decent game. Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny were being kept busy, but just as the Gunners were about to end the half goal less, Cesc Fabregas’s attempt to play his pass out of danger was picked off. Andres Iniesta fed Messi to chip up and volley past Almunia. The weaving patterns of play could not be anything that Arsenal have ever had to deal with before. Alves was amongst a made up central back pairing of Eric Abidal and Busquetts, but the Gunners were unable to profit from that set up.

Leveller

Samir Nasri was the outlet on the left, and his corner resulted in Busquetts leveller for Arsenal. It came when the Gunners were reduced to ten men, Abou Diaby putting Busquetts under pressure as he nodded past Victor Valdez. As we hoped against all hope that Arsenal would be able to take the game by the scruff of the neck, only Jack Wilshere seemed to be aware of the task at hand.

Telling

Xavi, Iniesta, David Villa however were too hot to handle. Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny and Wilshere were also ywlloe carded, with Djourou lucky not to have given away a first half penalty for a foul on Messi. Barcelona’s telling play got its’ reward after Iniesta and Villa combined for for Xavi to make it 2-1 on 69 minutes. Two minutes later, after more Barcelona pressure, Koscielny felled Pedro and Messi converted from the spot. 3-1 and that looked to be that.

Hustled

However Arsenal needed just another goal, but the ten men were unable to string a few passes together as the home side hustled and harried. When substitute Andrey Arshavin snapped the ball back, Wilshere was on to it. He squared for Bendtner who was well placed with only Valdez in front of him. Under pressure from Javier Mascherano, Bendtner was unable to get a shot away as the chance went and Arsenal departed from the Champions League.