What a game! Wow, Barcelona was mesmeric, playing football to die for. The first twenty minutes were all the giants from Spain. I don’t think I have ever witnessed Arsenal being outplayed that much. Arsenal stood off, inviting wave after wave of Barcelona attacks. I believe Arsenal are a great side, but Barcelona looked magnificent. To be fair to the gunners, Arshavin, Gallas and Fabregas looked half fit. It was no surprise when Gallas and Arshavin were substituted in the first half, through injury. Amazingly, the score was level at half-time, with the much maligned Almunia to thank. Save after save after save. When Manchester United and Arsenal play and miss chance after chance, they usually end up paying the price. Surely Barcelona couldn’t keep it up? Arsenal had to regroup, quickly.
The start of the second half, and Barcelona deservedly went ahead with Ibrahimovic lobbing Almumia. That’s the Almunia we Arsenal fans know. The mistake was comical, as usual. If you compiled mistakes of goalkeepers, Manuel would be frequently featured. All his good work in the first half was undone by the time the second goal went in. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his second of the night by blasting at the near post. I couldn’t believe it. I thought we were blown away, hypnotised by the whirlwind of play the Catalans bought before us. At two nil, it’s over, two away goals, losing and with a patched up side looking bewildered.
No! Our part was just beginning. Wenger bought on Walcott for Sagna and immediately his pace made a chance. Soon after, the immaculate Busquets gave the ball away. A couple of passes later and Walcott slotted under Valdes. 1-2 and suddenly panic set in from Barcelona. Arsenal probed and got a penalty from Puyol on Fabregas resulting in a sending off for the Barcelona legend. A harsh decision but the way the referee let nothing go without a card it wasn’t a surprising, the referee had a poor game. Up stepped the injured Fabregas. Arsenal could make the comeback. They didn’t turn up and could still draw the game. Would Fabregas bottle it? Against the club he knows so well? No chance, he’s an Arsenal boy, smashing it down the middle and made the impossible happen. 2-2. Immediately he felt his knee and now fears he could be out for the season. He may have scored the most important goal. A win in the Nou Camp and Arsenal go through. This time next week, we’ll know for sure.
The surprising thing is the reaction from fans from opposition clubs and the media. Make no mistake Arsenal looked well out of it, but I don’t think there is any team in the world that could have coped with Barcelona yesterday. Any other team would have dropped their heads, Arsenal didn’t. Pep Guardiola said it was the best 45 minutes he’d seen his team play, under his tenure. Six trophies last year and the best came at the Emriates, a game they didn’t win. The complaints were that Arsenal didn’t show any fight last year in the Champions League, but have shown just that against one of the greatest teams I’ve seen.
It’s a cliche, but football lasts for ninety minutes, Arsenal turned up for twenty, they can only improve on their performance. Promising signs were that the players that have had so much criticism came of age. Eboue was lightning quick, competing with Walcott in who could make the difference. Denilson came on and improved the passing. He didn’t show any nerves whereas Diaby did. I would be very comfortable with all three of these players starting in the second leg. They seem young enough to show no fear. Stick Nasri (who was full of industry) where Cesc would play and watch him weave his magic. All the pressure is on Barcelona. They are the Champions and Arsenal are still underdogs.
I like the way Arsenal showed something I haven’t seen for a few years. British Bulldog spirit. The way they refused to lie down was so English, so powerful but it is only half time in the tie. The great football was played by Barcelona, but Arsenal showed fight and cahones. This game totally lived up to the expectation, a mix of gorgeous football and wonderful aggression. To comeback was glorious, against the best team in the world. In the second leg, I expect the pressure will be on Barcelona to entertain, they’ve set the standards so high, can they keep it up? Arsenal will have four first teamer’s out, but will be pleased that the fringe players want to step to the plate.
Attentions now must turn to Wolverhampton at the weekend now. With Manchester United suffering a deficit in the Champions League and Wayne Rooney out, it may not be the rout of Chelsea that I was expecting. Arsenal could close the gap in the Premier League. However, the two English clubs must perform wonders to advance to the next stage of the Champions League, and I hope Arsenal can do just that.
On the contrary: Arsenal 2-2 Barcelona