Champions League – Comeback Earns Arsenal 2-1 Win Over Barcelona in First Leg

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A story of two halfs, and of two coaches – one who made the right substitutions and the one that messed them up. Barcelona led 1-0 after comfortably and convincingly outplaying Arsenal in the first half, with plenty of opportunities to execute the finishing blow, but somehow couldn’t. Oh, and they had a goal disallowed despite it being a legit one. Nonetheless, David Villa’s 26th minute goal, breaking the offside trap with clinical precision and speed was suppose to carry Barca the whole 90 minutes it seemed.

Then came the second half. Arsenal didn’t make any changes but Barcelona just seemed content with staying back and letting the gunners try and fail. The crowd kept Arsenal pushing and Jack Wilshere’s brilliant second half, helping Fabregas gain control of the middle, was crucial as Guardiola took out David Villa and threw Keita in, leaving Messi as the lone striker. That didn’t work, and Barcelona fell into a lethargic state. Arsenal kept pushing, and Wenger put in Bendtner for Walcott. Eventually, it was Van Persie, breaking the offside trap, who equalized, with a brilliant shot from a nearly impossible angle, fooling Valdes who went for the cross instead of the shot.

Barcelona seemed stunned, and Arsenal took advantage, hitting with a beautiful counter – Fabergas found Nasri striding on the right wing. Nasri opened things up and delivered a precise ball to Andrei Arshavin, scoring a beautiful goal with a awesome swerve and with perfect technique. That goal gave Arsenal the win they missed out on last year. Dani Alves was able to create another chance in the dying second, Szczesny made sure Arsenal had the win.

So is this a repeat of last year? Are Arsenal heading into the Nou Camp like lamb before the slaughtering? They have a win this time, not a 2-2 draw which gave Barcelona the advantage, but still, Barcelona are still the favorites to make it out of this one. Arsenal are not Inter, and when they defend with numbers it’s far from being a effective scheme. Wenger can’t and won’t try to last 90 minutes against that kind of pressure.

Robin Van Persie said in the post game interview that he was pleased they beat Barcelona at their own game, plus they got a little lucky. So true. Arsenal seemed frightened of the mean machine from the Catalan coast in the opening minutes, hardly able to keep possession for more than three passes. Barcelona had over 70% possession in the first half. Maybe it was Wenger or perhaps the atmosphere in the stadium that changed it for Arsenal, but the second half showed they can play some football.

And to think it all started so well for Barcelona
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The same state of mind is crucial for the second leg, because I don’t see Guardiola taking out David Villa so early again, or Lionel Messi missing the same chances. Barcelona are too good of a team to make those mistakes again, and Arsenal need a nearly flawless game plan in two weeks to reach the quarter finals.

2 responses to “Champions League – Comeback Earns Arsenal 2-1 Win Over Barcelona in First Leg”

  1. So far, it’s the best game I’ve watched this year.
    I don’t agree with you when you say Arsenal were lucky. I simply think they were very good with 3 players who were simply incredible.
    Wilshere is world class, what a game he did. He’s only 19 but show a lot of maturity and for me, he was player of the game. Koscieny also was incredible – always at the right place. The GK did very well and Messi was probably very surprised when he tryed the “lob” at the beginning of the game.
    TBH, I’ve never been a fan of spanish football and I’m getting sick of hearing everytime that Barcelona is the best team of all time. I have the feeling that most ppl think it’s not Arsenal that played well but it’s Barcelona who sucked.
    In the end, it’s not a bad score for Barcelona since they scored a goal away. But in reality, I think every goal Arsenal scored will count twice for the gunners. They gave a huge spirit boost and not a lot of team scored & won against barca.

    But, I still think Barcelona will win and go in quater finals. It won’t be easy since Pique won’t be there even if Abidal did a very good game.
    I also think that we realised that Guardiola isn’t a great coach like Wenger can be.
    The spanian did weird substitutes. It’s the first time this year he had a decision to do since most of the time barcelona already scored 3 goals before half time so there’s no need for any coach tactics.
    Sorry for my english as you probably realised it’s not my native language =)

    • @Sando – Van Persie was the one who said Arsenal got a bit lucky, I just agreed with him. Still, Arsenal got a deserved win, they outplayed Barcelona in the second half, with Wilshere’s midfield dominance being the key to the victory. Guardiola messed up, but maybe it’s a bit of over confidence clouding his judgement.

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