Arsenal were the clear underdogs in their round of 16 clash with Barcelona at the Emirates on Tuesday and that tag was rightly justified as they fell in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 by two goals from Lionel Messi.
Arsenal had just 30% of the possession, but were able to create the better chances, especially in the first half when they should have scored though Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had taken the clear cut chances, especially in the first half.
With a 26-match unbeaten record going into the game, the trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez could not create a goal scoring chance until the 42nd minute when they pulled the Arsenal defence apart but Petr Cech made the first save before Laurent Koscielny completed the clearance. Three minutes later, Suarez should have opened the scoring but his glancing header shaved Cech’s right hand post.
The second half saw Arsenal get more of the ball and that left gaps in their defensive shield. And as the game got stretched, the MSN [Messi, Neymar and Suarez] started finding the combinations and these eventually paid off in the 71st minute.
With Arsenal deep in attack, the ball broke in midfield and Suarez touched on for Neymar, who squared up Nacho Monreal and Koscielny before laying on the pass for Messi, who did the rest.
It was Messi’s first goal past Cech in seven matches, which had spanned 10 hours and 11 minutes. The second was to follow 12 minutes later as a rash tackle on Messi by substitute, Matthieu Flamini, led to Barcelona awarded a penalty.
Messi stepped up and scored the second and probably the clincher. It could have been worse in added time with Neymar’s header goal bound before Cech’s intervention.
Arsenal tried their best but were just undone by the magic of Messi and it seems that for another season, it is bye to the Champions League.
In the second match of the day, Bayern Munich was away to Juventus and the Bavarians would be pinching themselves on how they let a two-goal lead slip.
With Pep Guardiola hoping to leave Bavaria with the Champions League diadem achieved, Bayern created chance after chance but Robert Lewandowski did not have his boots tied the right way though Thomas Muller spared his blushes when he scored three minutes to the end of the first half.
It was a deserved lead as Juventus had chosen to defend but conceding the goal ensured that it was a better match in the second half with the Serie A leaders pushing the Bundesliga leaders as they searched for the elusive equalizer.
Bayern scored their second through Arjen Robben in the 54th minute and it seemed plain sailing.
But Massimiliano Allegri rang the changes with Hernanes on for Claudio Marchisio and Stefano Sturaro on for Sami Khedira. Pablo Dybala pulled one back for Juventus in the 62n minute and Sturaro completed the comeback with the equalizer 15 minutes to the end.
It is now delicately poised for the second leg in Munich on March 16 at the Allianz Arena.
Photo Credit – Eurosport