Arsenal-Barcelona: Not a Football Match, a UEFA Champions League Rollercoaster

Reuben SmithCorrespondent IApril 1, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 31:  Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal hobbles off the pitch injured to receive treatment after levelling the scores at 2-2 from the penalty spot during the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg match between Arsenal and FC Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium on March 31, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Living in Australia, games that are played at night in Europe are played at 5 o’clock in the morning here, but are televised at night. So I watched the game 15 hours after it had actually happened.

It was the longest day of my life.

The whistle blew and I was parched with sweat.

Here we go, the moment I have been anxiously been waiting for.

As time ticked by, I turned from sweating to shitting myself; Barcelona could have scored six goals in the first 15 minutes.

We were being out-passed, out-possessed; out-played.

Barcelona missed some absolute sitters, and our keeper, Manuel Almunia, kept us in the game. Despite all the controversy surrounding him, he has proved his worth, and that Arsene Wenger isn’t stupid in keeping him and not buying a replacement.

Before I knew it  was half-time, and although still 0-0, you had to feel that we could not hold on much longer if the same Barcelona team came out after the break.

Within 20 seconds, I was proved right. Ibrahimovic scored a well-taken goal, although you would not say that Almunia’s positioning was very good.

Barcelona continued to control possession, but Arsenal were finally finding their own, and, believe it or not, managed to string more than two passes together.

Then Ibrahimovic broke and...scored.

Game over? Barca are two nil up at the Emirates. It would have been easy to believe so.

Yet, Arsenal showed what they have been noted for throughout the season; a never give up attitude.

They picked themselves up and it payed dividends. Theo Walcott, proving that he hasn’t just got pace, made a great brake down the right-side, and calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net.

We were coming back.

The referee—who I believe was awful during the match, handing out yellow-cards left, right and centre for some stupid reasons—controversially booked Puyol in the penalty area, which he then added to with a red-card.

Fabregas, who Puyol fouled to concede the penalty, stepped up...

A Barcelona youth academy starlet, it would be Fabregas who would ‘decide’ the momentum of the match. He was facing the club he had grown up idolising, playing now for an Arsenal side which he captained.

He sent Valdes the wrong way, and the ball found the back of the net. The comeback was complete, the race for another goal began.

Cesc raced to the net, picked up the ball in order to get on with the game, and...

The commentator said it well, “this may be serious; collision injuries aren’t often too much to worry about, it’s a major concern when a player goes down with no tackle involved.”

Fabregas began to limp, and then sat down grasping his leg. All our substitutes were used and Cesc was being assisted from the field. My heart was in my mouth. Not only was he missing the second match between Barcelona and Arsenal (due to an unwarranted yellow from the referee prior in the match,) he may be missing the rest of the season.

He was back on the field, all was well.

Wrong, he was limping; badly. He was doing all he could to encourage and assist the team, that he clearly loves so much, to try and score another goal.

What I believe is out right stupid and irresponsible, was no less than heroic.

No more goals were scored, the game ended 2-2.

What I thought would be a show down was not, but it still had me on the end of my seat the whole time.

A match where, despite no close marking, the best player in the world, Messi, barely saw a sniff of the ball.

A game that reinforced the fact that Arsenal are not to be taken lightly by anyone.

We will find out if Francesc Fabregas has “broken” his leg in the near future.

But, bring on the second leg next week. Fabregas, Arshavin, Puyol, and Pique out, the tie is set to be a rollercoaster of highs and lows.

It will all be decided at Camp Nou, in a week’s time.

I await eagerly.


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