The match surely lived up to its hype. With a lot of action on both halves of the pitch throughout the match and a plethora of world class players showing their talent. The match started at a fast pace and it never slowed down even for the blink of eye.
In the 5th minute of the match, Robin Van Persie made a beautiful run, the ball was chipped over to the left side of the Barcelona’s danger area, with a defender on his back and a tight angle to shoot, Van Persie struck the ball on the run only for the keeper to deny him a goal. Once the ball was with the Catalans, it was difficult to get it back for Arsenal. Lionel Messi was put through by David Villa and he chipped it over Szczesny but it was just wide. Very soon the ball again went to Barca, with Messi making a run through the centre of the pitch and Alex Song earning a yellow card for a challenge. This yellow card only meant that Song would have to make some calculated tackles for the rest of the match and any untimed tackle could earn him another Yellow (or a straight red) and would definitely sound the end of Arsenal’s champion’s league campaign. As the match progressed Barcelona settled in well , playing their usual passing game, keeping a lot of possession. Arsenal was not up to the best level that they can produce having to do a lot of defending. Finally the Arsenal defense broke with David Villa making the run and Messi fed him a through ball. Szczesny did rush towards Villa but the dangerous Spanish struck a beautiful goal by sliding the ball under the keeper just as he was making his dive. Tension could easily be seen building up on the faces of the Arsenal fans.
As the second half started Arsenal started settling in well though still seeing the ball for very short periods. In the defensive side it was Koscielny who was doing all the hard work and making life difficult for the Catalan forwards. This was definitely one of the best matches played by the Frenchman. Wilshere too lived up to the expectations with keeping pressure on the Barca players when they had the ball and keeping possession and making good passes going forward. Then Barcelona introduced their first sub with David Villa being replaced by Saydou Kieta. Surely confirming a more defensive approach. Arsenal replaced Walcott and Alex Song with Arshavin and Bendtner, surely indicating a more attacking intent. Though this was a big risk taken by the French tactician and could have resulted in 2-0 or 3-0 had it misfired. Arsenal started playing much more in the Barca field. The ball was in the left half of the Barca field when Gerard Pique earned a Yellow card for a rash foul on Febregas which rules him out of the next match. From Barca’s side most of the attacks were made from the right flank with Clichy beaten more than once only for the keeper to save. Arsenal at 79mins was having the ball in their left flank and Clichy chipped it over the defense line and Van Persie mad a beautiful run. Again the defender was on the inner side but Persie struck it hard and well scoring the goal by sliding it in from between the goal post and the keeper. One could easily see the Arsenal fans going wild. It was not long before Arsenal broke Barcelona apart on a wonderful counter attack. The ball was with Barcelona and as soon as it fell in Fabregas’s feet he fed it to Nasri who was making a darting run forward on the right flank. By the time he reached the Barca danger area there were three defenders. One with Nasri and two in the centre. Nasri showed the maturity and composure for which he is fast becoming famous. He cut the ball back and fed it to Arshavin who was coming in from a little left of the centre of the danger area and he struck the ball on his first touch curling it to the right side of the goal. With the defenders going with Persie missed Nasri’s pass and Arshavin’s shot. The Arsenal crowd just exploded with celebrations. It was not long before the match ended.
The match was really amazing. But it was Arsenal’s home. The second leg which is going to take place at the Camp Nou is surely going to be a treat to watch. Though Arsenal has a one goal lead but it is not enough. Plus Barca has scored an away goal which can go in their advantage if the situation arises. But from this match it has been proved that Barca can be beaten (which was looking impossible looking at the developments in the Spanish league and the thrashing of Madrid). The second leg is due on Tuesday, 8th March, 2011 in Camp Nou, Barcelona
Goal – David Villa (Barcelona) 27mins
Goal – Robin Van Persie (Arsenal ) 79mins
Goal – Arshavin (Arsenal) 83mins