Happy anniversary to you and Little Bee!
chanreborn & Little Bee:
By Myles Palmer
Arsenal 2 Barcelona 1
Villa 26, Van Persie 78, Arshavin 83
The key player in the Nou Camp will be Szczesny.
So pray that nothing happens to Arsenal’s goalkeeper between now and Tuesday, March 8th.
Barcelona’s style is cleverly-timed runs onto sharp little passes, which ｃ ｒｅａｔｅs a lot of one-on-one chances with the keeper.
Wojciech Szczesny’s fine positional judgement makes him a master of making opponents shoot into the side-netting or just past the post.
On the goal, he was a bit unlucky because David Villa, a razor finisher in these situations, slotted between his legs.
By contrast, he got lucky on the loose ball after his save, when the scrambling Messi headed in but was flagged offside. Messi wasn't offside.
For me, Szczesny was Arsenal’s best player last night for that reason. Making Messi miss was the name of the game.
Yes, Koscielny played his finest game in an Arsenal shirt.
Yes, Jack Wilshere played with remarkable authority at the heart of the team. England need to play Jack football, Fabio - not Capello football.
Yes, of course, CL knock-out ties are a game of four halves.
Arsenal lost the first half 1-0 and won the second half 2-0 and halves three and four will roll round 20 days from now.
Arsenal raised their tempo after half-time and the game turned on 68 when Keita and Arshavin came on.
Keita replaced Villa to stiffen Barca's midfield, which was running out of steam, and allowed young Busquets to go ball-hunting further up the field.
Arshavin’s arrival (for Song) allowed him to link in a cool manner with Clichy, who played a killer ball forward into the box with his right-foot and gave Van Persie a chance to hit a mighty left-foot shot on the half- volley inside the near post of Victor Valdes for 1-1.
Valdes has always had flaky moments. That blunder by allowed Arsenal back into a game that Barcelona were still playing mostly in Arsenal's half.
Still, defending deeper can be good. You can only counter-attack if your opponents are in your half of the field. You can attack too much in a game. If you attack less, you often score more.
Frankly, Fabregas, Eboue and Walcott had been crap.
All three played crap. Only a blinkered, badge-kissing nincompoop would say any of those three played well last night.
Arsenal had nothing on the right flank but now, suddenly, that was where the winning goal came from after a fabulous move.
The cool Koscielny picked up the ball in his penalty area, passed to Bendtner, who passed infield to Wilshere, then quickly forward to Fabregas, who instantly released Nasri with a superb ball down the right flank.
Nasri could have tried the obvious with a low cross to the far post but chose instead to play a lovely pass which allowed Arshavin to curl his sidefoot shot behind Abidal and into the net from 15 yards.
That quality goal gave Arsenal their first victory against Barcelona and it set the seal on the pulsating, rocking, thrilling night that the Emirates has needed since 2006.
Sporting Gijon was a factor last night because game was much harder than the Wolves game was for Arsenal .
After two and half years of staggering success, and intensifying pressure, Barcelona are showing signs of burn-out, so Pep has to husband his resources very carefully.
Coming back off an international break, which is mostly where Barcelona ｄ ｒｏｐ their points, he conceded an early goal at Gijon in a game that was very passionate, intense and physical, since Gijon are fighting for their lives just above the drop-zone.
I was really enjoying the game but as the second half went on I was thinking : This is taking a lot out of Barcelona !
Indeed, it was a helluva battle that was taking a lot out of both sides.
Just as the commentators began to say that David Villa was about to be taken off, he glided onto a wonder-pass from Messi and chipped the keeper from the edge of the box and it finished 1-1.
Success brings a heavy schedule.
The more games you win, the more the pressure is on you. To handle that you need character and guts. Wilshere and Szczesny have given the team a lot more personality and authority than it had last year.
Big characters, big difference.
As Rufus Thomas said, age ain’t nothin’ but a number.
ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy; Song (Arshavin, 67), Wilshere; Walcott (Bendtner, 77), Fabregas, Nasri; Van Persie. Subs not used Almunia (gk), Rosicky, Denilson, Squillaci, Gibbs. Booked Song, Nasri, Van Persie
BARCELONA (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta (Adriano, 88); Pedro, Messi, Villa (Keita, 67). Subs not used Pinto (gk), Bojan, Mascherano, Milito, Afellay. Booked Iniesta, Pique (misses second leg)
Possession :Arsenal 47% Barcelona 53%
Shots on target Arsenal 8 Barcelona 7
Man of the match: Szczesny.
Referee Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)