Arsenal 2-2 Barcelona
North Bank flags
What an unbelievable game of football. My mind is still boggling. Iâ€™ve seen some good teams at the Grove in my time and Iâ€™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. Itâ€™s hard to say how much Arsenal contributed to Barcelonaâ€™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 â€“ possibly a broken leg. How do you carry on playing with a broken leg? Letâ€™s hope itâ€™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.
Weâ€™re still in it, by the hair on our chinny chin chin. Haha!
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