Barcelona triumphed against Arsenal 3-1 in the return leg of the Champions League, meaning that they are 4-3 winners on aggregate. The game however has been over-shadowed by the controversial Robin Van Persie sending off by Massimo Busacca.
Barcelona vs Arsenal 3:1 - Highlights And Goals - 8/3/2011 (via PaintedBaIIs)
Why did it have to happen this way?
Robin Van Persie shouldn’t have been sent off for kicking the ball away and now Wenger has his excuse, but more on that later.
The Camp Nou was rocking, the teams had lined up on the field and with one surprise. Van Persie started for the Gunners. Guardiola countered by displaying the strongest possible line up of Valdes; Alves-Busquets-Abidal-Adriano; Xavi-Mascherano-Iniesta; Pedro-Villa-Messi.
And from the menacing stares displayed by the line up here, they were up for this game:
The start was rather tame compared to the other meetings between the sides, but that could be attributed for Arsenal, who become the biggest hypocrites I have ever seen by playing ultra-defensive.
This came from a Wegner who said that, "The target for every manager is to try to entertain people."
I frankly was shocked by Arsenal’s approach and I imagine the Barca players were too. At least if you play anti-football hit Barcelona on the break, in fact just try and get a shot in.
Inter Milan approached their games with Barcelona last season in the same way, but remembered that they still needed to score, and to do so utilised the break.
Back to the game and Barcelona had won a free kick from distance after Pedro was hauled down by Koscielny. Koscielny was booked for this incident which would become important later on.
I saw Alves lining up the free kick and I expected the worst. Alves is usually poor from set pieces and this time was no exception. The ball was hit with power, as usual, but was all too easy for Szczesny. That was until he threw the ball out, and it was evident that Alves had finally caused damage from a free kick. Unfortunately, it was to a young keeper’s finger.
Szczesny was replaced by Almunia and Barca continued their possession game. It was evident that Arsenal were not going to attack, so Messi decided he was going to do enough attacking for everyone. He broke out the jinking runs, the quick one-twos and a goal was on the horizon. So when Messi was blatantly fouled by Diaby, the 95,000 spectators expected Busacca to point to the spot and Messi to dispatch the penalty.
That would not happen, just yet, and the bad decisions score for the tie (including the first leg) was at 2-0 in favour of Arsenal.
Did we complain for the next eternity and say the ref was a joke? Nope.
We decided to get on with it and Villa had a one on one saved by the impressive Almunia.
Then came the moment of madness. Van Persie took offence to something said by the hugely influential Dani Alves and reacted. He raised his hands to his face and made contact. A yellow card was given but the hypocrisy of it all has been evident as Arsenal players, manager, fans say that Abidal should have been sent off for raising his hands, but not Van Persie.
That was different apparently.
Nevertheless, Barca continued amongst the raging injustice that was bestowed upon Arsenal and scored the break through.
Credit to Fabregas for his semi-assist but uber-credit to Iniesta and Messi for finishing it off. Iniesta was at his best, weaving past the Arsenal defenders before inventing a new type of pass to Messi who passed to himself in the area (why not?) and finished past a hapless Almunia.
Total football and tiki-taka was winning.
After the break not much happened until Nasri must’ve got lost as he found himself taking a corner for Arsenal, after great individual play on his part. The corner was swung in and Busquets was unlucky enough to head it into his own net.
My theory was that Barca were taking pity on Arsenal so scored with their 1 shot on their own goal, as Arsenal did not create 1 of their own in the match. By doing so they became the first team in the Champions League to do so, and the first team to fail to register a shot in the Champions League, Europa League or top 5 European league (Spain, England, France, Germany, Italy).
Then came the "turning point".
Robin Van Persie found himself through on goal, but unbeknown to him, the ref had blown for offside. So when Van Persie attempted the shot less than a second after the whistle, Busacca clearly took offence and issued a second yellow to the bewildered Dutchman.
He pleaded innocence but even if he had convinced the ref otherwise he couldn’t have stayed on the pitch. The red could not be rescinded. What annoys me though, is that it was called the turning point. This was the sending off of a man who made 8 passes. A centre-forward operating in a 10-0 formation.
A centre-forward who had 0 shots.
The sending off of a man who, had Busacca had officiated the whole game by the letter of the law, would have been sent off anyway for falling for the mind games of Alves.
Wenger can blame that all he wants but the truth remains.
He lost Arsenal this tie.
He wanted to win and thought defence would help him when attack had previously failed him. Had he of sent out the Arsenal players to attack the makeshift back-four the result may have been different.
Barca were still at 1-1 and still heading for the exit. That was until a fantastic team move that was finished off by Xavi. One touch passes, great movement and a decent finish.
Barcelona were 2-1 up and maybe Arsenal fans thought that extra-time was a possibility. Barcelona fans or anyone who has seen the Blaugrana this season knew otherwise, and when Pedro was tripped by Koscielny, Messi stepped up and dispatched the penalty. It was his 45th goal of the season, and his 33rd goal in the Champions League, which eclipses Rivaldo's previous record of 31.
Koscielny should have been issued another yellow, but hey, I’m not bothered.
Time was nearly played out with Barcelona toying with Arsenal, but Bendtner (or the most arrogant man ever) nearly salvaged the tie. However, the phenomenal Mascherano recovered the 20 yards Bendtner had forged ahead and toe-poked the ball back to Valdes.
Game over and a fantastic team performance by Barcelona. They pressed the Arsenal players to the point of suffocation and saw themselves through to the next round. Sevilla await them at the weekend however, in what is sure to be another difficult game.
However, Wenger was still irate and made the point of talking to Busacca after the whistle. He has been charged for it, and rightly so, by Uefa, but at least it wasn’t of Didier Drogba proportions.
Then again, I’m sure he knows deep down that it was not a f****** disgrace!