Arsenal strike back in epic encounter

Arsenal 2-2 Barcelona

Arsenal v Barcelona flags
North Bank flags

What an unbelievable game of football. My mind is still boggling. I’ve seen some good teams at the Grove in my time and I’ve seem some defiant comebacks too, but both on the same night? As a spectacle, this one was epic.

Let it be said that Barcelona were staggeringly good for the first half an hour or so. This December, I will notch up a quarter of a century of watching Arsenal live and I am struggling to think of a better side than Barcelona in the opening phase of the match last night. Right from the whistle, they came at us. Their passing, movement and ball retention was so good that when I was later told the possession stats had been 71%-29% in their favour, I scratched my head and thought: From where did we get 29%?

@feverpitch told me they completed 274 passes in the first half. We managed 91. What a stat.

It could not have been more lop-sided. It’s hard to say how much Arsenal contributed to Barcelona’s magnificence, but the bottom line is we could not get the ball at all. The big boys would not give it to us.

Time and again, it was the shot-stopping skill of Almunia that saved us. I have no recollection how many times Barcelona hooped one over the bar or had a shot blocked or parried by the Spaniard, but it was a minor miracle that we made it to half time at 0-0.

Then came the second half, as it tends to. Half way to a douze points performance from the British jury, Almunia then immediately contrived to scuttle miles out of his area. Ibrahimovic merely chipped it over the by now retreating keeper. Nul points from the Spaniard and we were 0-1 down.

0-2 followed after, when the giant Swede ran through our static defence and thumped it in. No way back.

Except something changed. That something was the last throw of the dice in the shape of Theo Walcott. What an enigma he can be. Having played his best 45 minutes of the season against Burnley some weeks ago, he has since once again retreated into the shadows. Last night, out he popped again with a performance that immediately got Barca rattled. He was direct, lightning-quick, put in penetrating crosses or passes and changed the dynamic of the game completely with his goal.

We came to life in the last fifteen glorious minutes. All of a sudden, anything looked possible. Fabregas was bundled over – red card for the bloke from Scorpion. Up Fabregas stepped, blasted it in, 2-2.

In doing so, of course, he did something to his leg and although he hobbled on against all odds, it looks to be a bad injury – possibly a broken leg. How do you carry on playing with a broken leg? Let’s hope it’s not that serious.

Shall I talk about the referee? I can’t be bothered but I thought he was hopeless. Five yellow cards? How?

Overall, a gutsy, incredible comeback from an Arsenal side that had been utterly outclassed but never gave up. For all the flaws of this side, our indomitable attitude is fast becoming our hallmark.

We’re still in it, by the hair on our chinny chin chin. Haha!

Just testing something below… feel free to vote…


13 thoughts on “Arsenal strike back in epic encounter

  1. Have to agree with you. What a game of football. For one, we gave them far too much respect.
    We didn’t get anywhere near the ball. Stood off them and gave them far to much time to pick their passes.
    Referee was truly awful. Couldn’t keep up with the pace and intensity of the game.
    Still in this tie and the second leg will be totally different.
    Can’t see we’ll have the handbrake on like we did last night.

  2. Great review, I particularly liked the “bloke from Scorpions” comment

    On the first-half “great Barca vs poor Arsenal” conundrum, I was relieved to read comments from Guardiola in the paper today that the first half was the best that he had seen Barca play

  3. What an incredible game of football. True grit to come back from 2-0 down and that first half mauling. Going to be tough at the Nou Camp, although both teams will be somewhat depleted now. Keep the faith.

    (On the ref, he tried to keep play flowing when he should have blown up, and he stopped (and booked) when he should have waved play on. Utter shite.)

  4. we were a f**king embarrasement for 70 mins of last nights match! In 25 years of watching Arsenal I cannot remember a performance that comes close to the first 70mins! Even when utd beat us 3-1 we were 10 times better than last night. Why is there no beleif in this team when we clearly showed in the last 20 mins that we can beat Barca?

  5. We have to admit Barca made us look like schoolboys last night. We stood and watched them play yet every time we got the ball they were after us.

    Not only do they do what we do best but they also do what *cough* Bolton and all those teams do, get in your face and stop you playing. At one point I thought they must have had 16 players, whenever one of our boys had the ball he was surrounded by 3 Barca players yet the reverse cannot be said. I lost count of how many times Nasri failed to track the run of Alves leaving Clichy 2 on 1.

    Hopefully the mentality in the tie has swung and we now believe we can actually play against them. We proved it and I think Barca may be slightly more cagey in the 2nd leg.

    After all of that though what a fucking match, that is what European football should be like!!

  6. barca is a great team, they are miles ahead of us in terms of quick passing and experience. abou diaby was our missing link yesterday, for me, he needs to be on top of his game the way Song was

  7. Don’t think ref was useless – he actually allowed Song to make persistent small fouls – he only showed yellow cards when it warranted. Only Fab’s yellow card was incorrect. Also, it was the hopeless ref who gave us the lifeline.

    I think, Wenger made a mistake by not playing Denilson from the start. He showed others how to keep possession. Only him and Nasri looked like keeping the ball. Clichy was awesome as well.

  8. We played the first half like Starstruck girls at a pop concert. It was as though we didn’t believe we had a right to play football against them. We stood off and admired their football.

    I am pissed off that we let that big-nosed toss pot score. I think the only mistake made was not brining Campbell on instead of moving Song back. I don’t think Campbell would have allowed ole’ Big-nose to run through unmarked like that.

    That said I think Song would have been sent off in midfield.

  9. “the bloke from Scorpion” : Hilarious!

    A soft penalty, yes, but Cesc was about to shoot with only the keeper to beat.

  10. Tremendous game. We fought back brilliantly.

    I don’t care about the posession stats, nor the attempts on target.

    All I care about is the result. You can’t deny its probably advantage barca. 2 away goals in the bag will be difficult to overturn but I fancy us to score.

    The crucial thing is when we score, if its a consoaltion then forgetit we’re out. But if we score first…

  11. How do you power a PK shot like that in WITH a broken fibula? He’s magical, I’m telling you. Absolutely despondent that he’s out for six weeks now. We’ll miss him.

    “bloke from Scorpions”… classic >8)

  12. -Wenger’s rope-a-dope strategy worked well

    -Interesting that Barcelona’s only goals came from long balls

    -Nasri to run the show next week

    -Is Theo officially a big-game player?

    -Bendtner put in one of the tastiest crosses in the first half I’d seen all season from Arsenal (not saying much). Weird.

    -Best Barca performance I’d ever seen. They can’t do it twice.

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