Barcelona 3 Arsenal 1
Neymar 18, Suarez 65, Messi 88, Elneny 51

Arsenal’s much predicted Champions League last 16 demise was realised at the Nou Camp on Wednesday evening, when the Gunners exited Europe’s top club competition at the same stage for the sixth year in succession. Down 2-0 from their first leg at the Emirates stadium, the Gunners were outgunned by the that lethal threesome, Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. Some consolation for Arsenal when Mohamed Elneny scored his first goal for the Gunners, giving the visitors hope making the scoreline 1-1 at the time. Pressing and creating chances, Arsenal pushed the Catalan side hard, but were unable to take their chances. No such problems for Barcelona who capped a routine victory with a sublime finish from Messi. In truth, Arsenal had been given a footballing lesson, a 5-1 aggregate loss, and one from which they may be psychologically scarred for a while yet.

Mesut Ozil featured many times at the Nou Camp when playing for La Liga rivals Real Madrid. In heavy rain and on a slippery surface, his early shot flew wide of Marc ter Stegen’s goal. Elneny was lively in the early exchanges, but why had Arsene Wenger opted to partner him with Mathieu Flamini, when the energy and legs of Francis Coquelin would have served Arsenal better?

Elneny had another sighter on Barcelona’s goal, but steered his shot wide of the target after some strong running from Hector Bellerin on the right. David Ospina then denied Messi with a point blank save. When Laurent Koscielny lost the ball trying to break out, Barcelona forced the pace and Suarez worked the ball to Neymar who slotted past Ospina for the opener.

Alex iwobi was doing himself justice on the big stage, yet how he managed to fall over his own feet when a chance was in the offing was a mystery. He did however fire over the target after controlling the ball well in another sortee. To their credit, the Gunners responded positively to going a goal down.

Facing his former side Alexis Sanchez had a header just wide of the post after more good football from the visitors. Moments earlier and Javier Masherano’s block denied another Elneny effort. Just before the break and Danny Welbeck exchanged passes with Iwobi, and in the type of shot and from a similar angle from which Thierry Henry used to score, Welbeck hit wide under pressure from Mascherano.

Flamini made way for Coquelin and Arsenal’s bright start to the second half saw them level on the night. Gabriel headed back as Barcelona tried to clear their lines and the ball found Alexis on the right wing. He pulled the ball back for Elneny on the 18 yard line and the Egyptian powerfully placed the ball first time to level past ter Stegen and give his side hope.

Welbeck had a gilt edged chance to give Arsenal the lead, but his shot was defended well as Mascherano blocked with only ter Stegen behind him. Barcelona barely panicked, instead they took the lead again when Dani Alves’ cross found Suarez. The former Liverpool striker was all alone and timed his volley beyond Ospina. It was a marvellous finish but drove another dagger into the Gunners’ hearts.

Still they came back and Iwobi again linked up with Welbeck and this time his shot caught the corner of the post and the crossbar.

When Nacho Monreal was upended by substitute Arda Turan, Alexis took the resultant free kick. His shot required ter Stegen to save to his right. Substitute Olivier Giroud’s follow up shot found the German ‘keeper block with his arm, with substitute Theo Walcott heading into goal, that was until Alves headed clear. That sequence summed up Arsenal’s luck.

Two minutes before the end, a defensive disaster leading to Gabriel’s failure to clear the ball, and Neymar was lurking. Messi took possession. The Argentine ran at Ospina’s goal and as the Arsenal keeper came out, he lifted a perfectly flighted ball over the Columbian for a Barcelona third goal and his ninth in total against the Gunners.

The footballing masterclass was complete and Arsenal will rue the fact that had they had a world class striker in their ranks, this game and the overall result could have been so very different.