Thursday, February 17, 2011

Arsenal Over Barca 2 - 1

Last night The Beautiful Game was on display in London, as Arsenal came from behind to overcome FC Barcelona at home 2 -1 in a thoroughly exciting and beautiful match in Champions Leauge competition.  Both sides played very well indeed; during the first hour Arsenal hit 203 passes and Barca hit over 400, dominating possession for an almost unbelievable stretch of 20 minutes at one point.  Lionel Messi set up David Villa in the 26th minute of play to open the scoring, and at this point it seemed Barca would surely be moving on from London with another Champions League victory.

But to their credit, Arsenal did not give up, demonstrating real grace under pressure and the kind of 'Total Football' that FC Barcelona is renowned for.  An uncharacteristic missed shot on an open goal by Lionel Messi seemed to deflate the Blaugrana, insipiring the Emirates to step up their attack.  Coupled with Pep Guardiola's controversial decision in the 68th minute to substitue Seydou Keita for goal scorer David Villa, Messi's missed shot seemed to bring Arsenal back to life.  12 minutes from full time, Robin Van Persie equalized the score; and then in the 83rd minute Russian dynamo Andrey Arshavin put Arsenal ahead for good, and that was the match. 

Despite this outcome, however, not all is lost for Barca's Champions League prospects this year.   In an eerie echo of last year's story line, Arsenal now has to visit Camp Nou holding a slender lead over Barcelona, well aware that last year in exactly these circumstances, Lionel Messi exploded at home against them to score four goals and end their Champions League campaign.  For their part, the Blaugrana are also well aware that this story is not yet over, and that now Arsenal has to prove a second time, that they can consistently compete with the Best Team in the World.  We shall see.

But for the momenet, Arsenal is savoring a well-earned victory that was won with football style and finesse, and not the physical 'clogger' tactics that Van Persie and his Dutch mates used against Spain in the World Cup, which many people were expecting to see as a response to Barca's dominance.  Hats off to Arsenal for staying true to their principles, and proving that it is not necessary to sacrifice The Beautiful Game for the sake of a chance to win, when facing FC Barcelona.

We shall certainly be looking forward to the next leg of this tournament.  On to Camp Nou!