van Persie: "How can I hear a whistle with 90,000 people jumping up. How to God can I hear? The referee has been a joke all evening." I agree, Robin, I agree
Messi 45+3', Xavi 68', Messi 71' (Pen)
Busquets (og) 52'
Arsenal are out of the Champions League after losing to Barcelona 3-1, and 4-3 on aggregate. There will be of course, controversy over the manner of Robin van Persie's dismissal, and there should be, but, bearing that in mind, Arsenal were awful in an attacking sense tonight, and the better team did win. Manuel Almunia pulled off several stunning saves, having come on for Wojciech Szczesny, but for Arsenal, there'll be a feeling of 'what if?'
Arsenal were pushed deep by Barcelona, who were relentless in their pressing. Arsenal had trouble passing the ball, due to Barcelona's relentless pressing, and were hampered by Cesc Fabregas being a liabilty; the Arsenal captain felt a twinge in his hamstring after 15 minutes. Arsenal, however, stood firm, and Laurent Koscielny made two superb tackles to deny Lionel Messi. A shot from Dani Alves was saved by Szczesny, who then kicked the ball out. Worryingly, it seems his season may be over if he ruptured tendons in his hand, and Manuel Almunia had to come on for the 20 year old. Almunia made several key saves to keep the scores level, and Arsenal were under pressure but they were dealing with it.
A tackle from Javier Mascherano on Jack Wilshere flared into a shoving match, as the Barca players accused Wilshere of time-wasting. As he was lying on the floor, this was a ludicrous accusation, but Barcelona still saw fit to turn it into something else. van Persie had his throat grabbed by Abidal, who somehow didn't get sent off; instead it was the Dutchman who got a yellow card for stupidly pushing Dani Alves off the ball moments later.
Soon after, Barcelona scored. A Cesc Fabregas backheel on the edge of his own penalty area saw the ball given away to Andres Iniesta, who passed to Lionel Messi, who chipped over the prostrate Manuel Almunia, and then finished into the empty net. It was a deserved goal, but Arsenal, especially Cesc Fabregas, would've been kicking themselves for giving the goal away with just minutes to go before the end of the first half.
They started strongly in the second half though, and Samir Nasri made a determined run to win a corner. He took the corner, and Busquets inexplicably headed the ball into his own net to make it 1-1, and put Arsenal back ahead, 3-2. Soon after though, Robin van Persie was sent off, for kicking the ball away. Seeing as he was continuing his run, and playing in a stadium with 100,000 people, and was sent off 1 second after the whistle was blown, it remains a mystery why the Swiss referee sent him off, and was frankly, an unbelievably stupid decision. From then on, Arsenal struggled. Whenever they got the ball, they lacked an outlet, and Barcelona produced a beautiful move to see Xavi score and make it 2-1. It was again, unlucky for Arsenal, as Bacary Sagna got the slightest of deflections to take it away from Manuel Almunia, but the goal had been coming. Minutes later, Laurent Koscielny brought down Pedro in the box, and Lionel Messi dispatched the pen. Andrey Arshavin came on for Tomas Rosicky, who put in a decent shift on the right, and Nicklas Bendtner finally gave Arsenal an outlet when he came on for the completely anonymous Cesc Fabregas. Bendtner had his chance in the dying moments to send Arsenal through when Jack Wilshere played him in, but his touch was heavy, and Mascherano made the challenge to take the ball away.
That was it from Arsenal, and an end to their European campaign. Barcelona were excellent on the night, but if van Persie wasn't sent off, it could've been different. Arsenal only needed one goal to make it very difficult for Barcelona, and if van Persie was still on, surely they would've gotten more chances, and they can be proud of the way they defended. Koscielny, despite conceding the penalty, was superb again, as was Johan Djourou, Manuel Almunia and Jack Wilshere. Samir Nasri plugged away on the left, often running on his own against the Barca defence, and the goal is largely down to his persistence. Unlike last year, we can come out of this with our heads held high. After all, before the sending off, Barcelona had scored two goals in 150 minutes. After, they scored 2 in 30.