Thursday, 17 February 2011

Arsenal Fight Back To Beat Barcelona 2-1.

The stage was set last night for a great Champions League game between Arsenal and Barcelona at the Emirates, and by the end of the night that's exactly how it had turned out. Both teams did all they could to play good football, and despite trailing 1-0 at half-time Arsenal managed to turn things around. 

Arsene Wenger played the team that was expected with the exception of the fit again Samir Nasri playing instead of Andrey Arshavin. Barcelona started with the current best three players in the world in their team, and it was going to be a very hard task for Arsenal to get anything out of the game. Arsenal did have Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie and Samir Nasri in their team though, and when they are on top of their game they are a handful for any team.

Arsenal started quite well, and after only six minutes Cesc played a ball over the Barcelona defence for Robin Van Persie, but Victor Valdes saved the shot from less than six yards. As the game progressed Barcelona started to exert more pressure on Arsenal, as their one-touch passing proved very difficult to cope with. The speed with which they were playing was fantastic, and it seemed like a matter of time before they scored.
After 15 minutes Lionel Messi was played in on Wojciech Szczesny, and he seemed certain to score.

Szczesny stayed big for as long as possible, and Messi clipped the ball over him, but thankfully it drifted wide of the far post. All the time Barcelona were keeping possession, and the Arsenal players were tiring themselves out, as they chased shadows. Arsenal still looked dangerous on the break though, and it looked like that might be their best chance of scoring.

In the 25th minute Jack Wilshere took the ball out of defece, and played it to Theo Walcott who then played the ball into the box for Cesc. When Cesc reached it he crossed towards the back post for RVP, but Eric Abidal just managed to get his head there first to prevent what looked like a certain goal for Arsenal's in form striker. Within a minute Arsenal found themselves with a mountain to climb, as Barcelona took the lead.

Messi played a ball through the centre of the Arsenal defence for David Villa who looked to be offside.  He finished very calmly below the advancing Szczesny, and Barcelona had the lead that their play probably deserved at that stage. The replays showed that Villa was actually onside, and it was a very good call by the officials. It looked like Arsenal were going to be in for a very difficult last hour, and I feared the worst at that stage.

Arsenal did their best to recover as soon as possible, and they almost managed to do so in the 29th minute. Wilshere led another break forward, and he played a great pass to RVP inside the box. Unfortunately RVP's first touch let him down, and by the time he got his shot off he screwed it wide under pressure. It was the type of chance that RVP would usually put away, and in a game like this it was a chance he should not have missed.

A few minutes before half time Barcelona almost scored again when a Villa shot was saved by Szczesny, and the rebound popped up for Messi to head into an empty net. Thankfully he had drifted into an offside position, and the goal didn't count. Half time arrived, and Barcelona had a one goal lead, but they had comprehensively outplayed Arsenal for most of the half too. The big question was how would the boss get his players to react, and change the game around.

Arsenal started the second half brightly, and they had a couple of shots that didn't really bother Valdes too much.  All the time Barcelona kept trying to carve open chances, but they were repelled by some excellent goalkeeping from Szczesny, and some great defending from Laurent Koscielny. As the clock ticked by the boss decided it was time to make a change, and Arshavin came on for Song in the 68th minute. Song had already been given a yellow card, and he was walking a very thin line with the referee. It meant that Nasri dropped into the centre of midfield, and Arshavin went out to the left of the attacking trio.

With Barcelona offering less of a threat Arsenal pushed further forward, and it looked like they might just make their way back into the game. In the 77th minute Nicklas Bendtner came on for Walcott, as Arsenal looked to put some pressure on the Barcelona defence. The crowd could sense that Arsenal were in with a chance, and they made their presence felt. The atmosphere in the stadium seemed fantastic, and all it needed was a goal for Arsenal to make it even better.

Gael Clichy clipped a ball over the Barcelona defence, and RVP got on the end of it on the left of the box. As he closed in on the goal it looked like he had no chance of scoring, as the angle was too tight. Valdes obviously thought the same thing too, as he moved off his line to block any cutback from RVP. It left the near post slightly unguarded, and RVP looked , and saw his chance. He crashed the ball into the net with his left leg from a very tight angle, with Valdes looking on in despair. Arsenal were level, and suddenly the momentum was with them too.

As I pointed out previously Barcelona are not used to playing teams of Arsenal's ability every week, as the Spanish league has become so uncompetitive in recent seasons. It meant that they were on the ropes for a while, and Arsenal did all they could to take advantage of it. The crowd got even louder, and I got the feeling that another goal was on the way.
The goal came in the 83rd minute when Arsenal managed to regain the ball after a spell of Barcelona pressure. Wilshere played the ball to Cesc, and he turned and played a first time pass into acres of space for Nasri to run onto. Nasri was on his own on the right of the box with three defenders racing back, and it looked like nothing would come of the move. He held the ball up, and resisted to temptation to try to play it to RVP. Instead he played it across the box for Arshavin who ran onto it, and hit it first time into the corner of the net.
The crowd were delirious, and the players were pretty happy too. Now they just had to hold on for seven minutes and injury time as well, to gain a famous victory. Barcelona piled the pressure on, but a mixture of good goalkeeping, and last ditch defending kept them out. Arsenal had a chance of their own near the end when Bendtner tried to score a similar goal to the one RVP scored earlier. He hit it with his right foot though, and despite the fact that Valdes got to it I don't think it was ever going in. 

When the final whistle went Barcelona had suffered a rare defeat, and Arsenal had given themselves a chance of progressing to the quarter finals. Barcelona will be favourites to progress, as the 2-1 scoreline is a pretty good one for any team to get from the away leg. When Arsenal go to Barcelona's ground in just less than three weeks they will have a massive task on their hands, but they have given themselves some hope at least. They showed that Barcelona are not invincible, and maybe not even quite as good as they like to think they are.
The best Arsenal players on the night were Szczesny, Wilshere and Koscielny, but they were ably assisted by the rest of the team. Arsenal were opened up a little too easily on the left side of their defence in the first half, but thankfully they rectified the problem at half time. I have to give credit to Emmanuel Eboue, as I thought he put in a disciplined display, and I hardly realised Bacary Sagna was suspended.

Arshavin has slowly come back to form over the last few weeks, and hopefully his goal last night will give him more confidence. With Arsenal still competing on four fronts it's vital that as many players as possible are playing at their best. There's a long way to go yet, but the signs are getting better despite the odd setback. If things continue as they are at the moment this could be the season that Arsenal end their trophy drought, and it's possible that there could be more than one trophy to do so. I still see any progress in the Champions League as a bonus, but if Arsenal can somehow survive in the Nou Camp I might just have to change my mind.

That's it for today.

Here's the highlights from last night's game.

See You Tomorrow.


  1. Awesome, completely awesome. I dont know what to say... Fuck Yeah!

  2. It wasn't too bad really was it :)