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Arsenal Outplayed & Dominated by Relentless Barca

Robin Van Persie Robin van Persie of Arsenal reacts as referee Massimo Busacca shows his a red card during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Barcelona and Arsenal on March 8, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain.

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Barcelona achieved 76% of possession against Arsenal. Need I continue? When Barcelona have the ball and keep it, which they do tenaciously and in apparent ease, the opposition has very little chance of getting anything from the game. Arsenal attempted not a single shot on target. Not one. The utter dominance of Barcelona in all areas of the pitch meant that the absence of their two centre halves, Puyol and Pique was irrelevant in an easy win for the classy Spanish side (I use classy very loosely with Dani Alves, but more on that later).

Arsenal may say that they were hard done by, with a red card brandished to the hard of hearing Rob van Persie early in the second half as he shot wide after the whistle had gone for offside. His pleas that he could not hear the whistle due to the 95,000 screaming fans – a good defence – fell on deaf ears, and the referee decided to show the second yellow in an extremely harsh move which all but ended any fair competitiveness in the painfully one sided match.

Van Persie complained after the match of his red card:

“I think it was a total joke. How can I hear his whistle with 95,000 people jumping up? How can I hear it? Please explain that?”

“I can’t understand the view from the ref. One second from his whistle to my shot is a joke. He has been bad all evening. He was against us. I don’t know why he was here tonight, it’s a joke.

“We feel betrayed, almost. We tried really hard. When it was 1-1 it was all to play for. But, in my opinion, the ref killed the game.”

Even so, Arsenal were being controlled, pinned back, outplayed before the sending off, and if anything, Arsenal spent more time in the Barcelona half after the Dutchman’s sending off. It was simply a story of the better side winning; I have never seen a game so one sided in possession and chances in the Champions League.

The first goal was inevitable. Wojciech Sczcesny went off early on after his first save of the game injured his finger. Almunia came on, and had a good game – probably Arsenal’s best player, but he could do nothing to stop Messi from dinking the ball over him and swiping it into the back of the net for the opener.

In between the action, there was the odd pathetic dive. Diving infuriates me beyond belief, the replays shown on Sky making my fists clench in anger and jaw tighten in utter fury. Although so many footballers are at fault in this department, Dani Alves is one that so many times throws himself to the floor, clutching some part of his body – any part of his body all to con the referee. He gets away with it too. Maddening.

Arsenals goal was scored by Busquets – from a Nasri corner. Perhaps he felt sorry for them, wanted to give them a fighting chance – something to work with and hold on to. Probably not. But for all the intricate passing from Barcelona, their beautiful football was countered by a simple ball into the box, headed into their own net by their own player. A little ironic.

But Barcelona fought back with their wonderful football. Intricate passing, great vision, umarkable movement, all leavin Arsenal defenders on their rear ends, as the tricks and turns left them flat footed. Carved open, Xavi passed the ball into the net, as if it were his team mate, and wheeled away, jubilant. Onto the third.

The Arsenal box was occupied so often by Barcelona, and so it was only a matter of time before someone went down and won a penalty. To my diving hating relief, it was a penalty, fairly awarded for a Koscielny tackle which brought down the Barca player with a late, trailing leg. Messi duly stroked it artistically home, and the game was won.

The deserved winners march on in the competition, leaving Arsenal licking their wounds in preparation for a crucial clash with Manchester United in a far more winnable FA Cup tie. Time to pick themselves up and push on.

Submitted by DBSFootball

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