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Champions League – Barcelona Beat Ten Man Arsenal

Champions League – Barcelona Beat Ten Man Arsenal

Arsenal fell short at the Nou Camp as they lost again to Barcelona and made an early exit form the Champions League at the last sixteen stage. Despite having a creditable 2-1 lead from the first leg, the odds were probably stacked against them even before the kick off, as the faced the Spanish Champions who are currently ten points ahead of nearest rivals Real Madrid in the La Liga table.

As expected, Barcelona dominated the game from the first kick off and it was obvious the Gunners defence would be hard pushed to preserve their first leg lead. Arsenal defended well but their inability to create dominate possession and create opportunities of their own was an open invitation for their hosts to mount attack after attack.

The fact that Barca were limited to Adriano hitting the crossbar with a shot and Messi wasting a good opportunity but then shooting straight at Almunia, is a credit to Arsenal’s determination in defence as most of the hosts attacks were cut short or they were limited to speculative efforts. As half time approached it looked like the game would remain goalless and the Gunners would preserve their first leg lead.

The turning point in the game came three minutes into injury time in the first half as Csec Fabregas inexplicably attempted a back heel pass which gave the ball away and Messi neatly chipped the ball over Almunia and into the Arsenal goal, which level the aggregate scores but gave Barcelona the advantage having scored an away goal at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal surprisingly regained the upper hand in the 53rd minute when Busquets inadvertently headed the ball into his own goal following a corner, but they suffered a further setback when Van Persie, who had been booked for a previous foul, was given a second yellow card after attempting a shot at goal after the referee had blown his whistle. Despite their protests at the decision to send him off, the Gunners were now reduced to ten men and braced themselves for the Barcelona onslaught.

It wasn’t long before Barcelona capitalised on their numerical advantage as Xavi scored ion the 69th minute before Messi scored his second of the game two minutes later from the penalty spot after Pedro was fouled.

Credit must go to Almunia in the Arsenal goal as he produced a string of fine saves to keep the score line respectable, as the Gunners began to capitulate. Nicklas Bendtner, however, wasted an opportunity to score a late goal that would have seen the visitors through on the away goals rule, but the 3-1 victory on the night was enough to see Barcelona through to the next round as they won 4-3 on aggregate over the two games.