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Messi Was NOT The Difference….VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Arsenal vs Barca - Messi

Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal (6-3 Agg)

By Fab4.

Arsenal were beaten 4-1 by Barcelona at the Nou Camp last night, but don’t believe what you read in the papers or on websites, we weren’t beaten by a one-man show from Lionel Messi. Yes he scored all four goals and is by far and away the best player on the planet, but Arsenal were taught a lesson in how to play complete football by a team that worked as a unit, pressed us all over the pitch, never wasted a pass and  supported the phenomenon who scored the goals.

I have never seen a side work so hard to get the ball back than Barcelona last night, well actually, they were equally good last week. But it was just as impressive to watch as seeing Messi score his four delightful goals. Barca’s organisation and work ethic was the real story form the game, but i shouldn’t deny Messi his glory…he was truly unbelievable.

Arsene Wenger was forced to field a make-shift team with Silvestre coming in for Campbell, who hadn’t recovered from a hamstring injury, while Rosicky and Walcott started either side of Bendtner up front. I won’t go on about Arsenal’s injuries, I’m boring myself with that one.

The game started out well enough for Arsenal who looked far more comfortable than they did last week. Messi did go close a few times before Arsenal silenced the Nou Camp to open the scoring against all the odds. Diaby robbed the ball in midfield and suddenly we were 3 on 2, Diaby played in Walcott who raced clear and found himself one-on-one with Valdes. But instead of having the confidence to take the shot on himself, Theo elected to square it for Bendtner. The pass was slightly behind him but he still managed to get a shot away that Valdes did well to save but Big Nik got to the rebound first to poke home and give Arsenal an unlikely lead. GAME ON!

0-1 Bendtner (18)

I was really disappointed that Walcott didn’t have the ‘balls’ to take the shot on, or at least give Bendtner a decent pass. But his pace is the reason he started and it had help give Arsenal the lead, and quite possibly could have lead to us doubling our advantage only minutes after the opener had Diaby chosen the right option.

Again Diaby found himself with some time in the middle of the park and Walcott had made a great run through the middle but for some unknown reason Diaby chose to play in Bendtner, not only a bad choice but it was a poor pass and the attack died out. I was furious with Diaby, slip in Walcott and he was in on goal. A game changing moment in my eyes but at least Arsenal were looking dangerous.

Unfortunately, all the good work was soon thrown out of the window. Just when you wanted Arsenal to tighten up, slow the game down, keep the crowd quiet and make Barcelona work for a goal, up popped Silvestre with a superb assist! Messi weaved his way to the edge of the area and tried a through ball which Silvestre could only deflect straight back at him, Messi took a touch and smashed home from the edge of the box. A great finish but avoidable from Arsenal’s side.

1-1 Messi (21)

I think this is the reason Arsene doesn’t like playing two left footers together in the middle. If that was a right footed player like Campbell he could have cleared the ball into the stands or away from danger, but with Silvestre trying to control with his left, any bad touch would have diverted the ball back into the danger zone, as was the case.

A controversial moment arrived that was quietly brushed under the carpet by the Sky commentators, when Bendtner was put through one-on-one only to be ruled off-side, when he was a yard on. A terrible decision that went against Arsenal, after that i knew this wasn’t going to be our night. Not only giving away cheap goals again but decisions were going against us.

That feeling was confounded when minutes later Barcelona took the lead. Not surprisingly a close off-side decision went Barca’s way when Abidal was played in on the left, his low cross was cut out at the near post but the rebound fell to Pedro, his knock down found Messi who skipped past one challenge and fired past Almunia.

2-1 Messi (37)

The game had completely swung inside 20 minutes. Arsenal were in the tie until the 37th minute, but had missed their chance. Diaby’s decision making, a couple of off-side decisions, a poor touch from Silvestre and some deadly finishing from Messi had changed the game in Barca’s favour. Over the course of the tie so far you could hardly argue they didn’t deserve their lead, but from an Arsenal fan’s perspective you couldn’t help in wondering ‘what if’. The off-side on Bendtner was a real stomach churner. If we take a 2-1 lead there the game takes a whole different shape.

Anyway, Messi completed his hat-trick is superb fashion just before half time to all but end Arsenal’s challenge for another year. Vermaelen missed his header in the centre circle leaving a huge gap in defense. Messi was sent through on goal and finished with an audacious chip over Almunia. Amazing stuff, you couldn’t help but admire him.

3-1 Messi (42)

Arsenal needed 2 goals without reply in the second half, a similar comeback last week gave Gooners hope. I saw enough in the first half to know that we could cause them problems but with Messi about i wasn’t so sure we could keep him out at the other end.

The one thing in Arsenal’s favour was the open and expansive nature of Barcelona’s football meant we had opportunities to counter attack through Walcott’s pace. But Guardiola is tactful enough even at the young age of 39 to stifle any danger and duly brought on the defensive minded Toure for striker Bojan. This substitution indicated a new mind-set for the Barca team.

They basically toyed with Arsenal for the rest of the second half. They slowed the game down, defended deeper with two defensive midfielders breaking up play. Although it seemed Arsenal were having the better of it, Barca knew what they were doing. We did manage to create a couple of half chances, Rosicky firing high and wide when well placed and Bendtner wanting too much time in the area to get his shot off, but in truth we looked fairly toothless.

The best chance was from a superb Clichy cross which found Bendtner free in the box but his header came crashing back off the post, he was given off-side in any case, another wrong decision according to Wenger.

But with Arsenal running out of ideas and Barcelona looking comfortable, Messi stepped up to smash home his fourth and put a bit of gloss on the scoreline.

The Argentine weaved through the Arsenal defense with relative ease, his first shot was saved by Almunia but he collected the rebound picked his spot and drove home through the keepers legs.

4-1 Messi (87)

Four goals for Barcelona and four goals for Messi. On reflection the 6-3 aggregate scoreline is probably a fair reflection of the gulf between the two sides over the two legs. However, after surviving the onslaught at the Emirates last week, Arsenal had the chance to cause a real upset last night. At 0-1 there was a great chance to score a second, and then the Bendtner off-side at 1-1, either one of those opportunities would have changed the tie significantly.

I know Arsenal wouldn’t have deserved it, but you don’t always get what you deserve in football (Arsenal fans should know that!). I hold my hands up and say Barca were the better side but can’t help wondering if it could have been our night had Diaby passed to Theo or if the linesman hadn’t wrong-fully flagged Bendtner off-side.

Oh well, they were two magnificent games and if we had to lose to someone I’m glad it was Barca. They play outstanding attacking football, but also work hard to get the ball back on the rare occasion they lose it. A true lesson for any football side. They must have been good because i have never heard Arsene Wenger be more complimentary after defeat in my life. He said:

First I want to congratulate Barcelona and wish them good luck. They over the two games they deserved to qualify.

They are an exceptional team with an exceptional player and in the exceptional games the exceptional players make the difference.”

He went on to praise Lionel Messi but i think Arsene knew we came up short and he doesn’t mind being beaten by a great footballing side. You can see he had full respect for Barca and there footballing principles. I hope Barcelona go on to retain the trophy, they are the best side left by a mile.

So Arsenal’s champions league dream is over for another year and it’s back to the premier league. Unfortunately we have a week to wait for the next fixture, but what a fixture it is. Away to Tottenham at S*ite Hart Lane. Look out for match preview nearer the time.

What do you think of Arsenal’s performance last night? Did we miss our chance to progress? Please leave your comments below…..

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