Sitting in the tube on my way to the Emirates, I was full of excitement as I was seeing in my opinion, the best two footballing sides in the world.
Barcelona were amazing in that first twenty minutes. They kept the ball and passed it around for what seemed like an eternity. Barcelona showed why they are the masters of this type of football and rightly so. As a Gooner at the ground, I feared the worst; we just could not get the ball. It took us twenty minutes to string five passes together.
Manuel Almunia was outstanding in that first twenty minutes and kept his side in the tie. Barcelona had around four very good chances and on another day could have scored them all. Almunia, who has been slated in the media and by fans, produced some fine world class saves. As I have said before, we must support the players we do have and Almunia proved that in the first twenty minutes.
Alex Song was very bright in the first half but had to drop back and was clearly not as comfortable there; however his replacement in midfield Denilson had a solid game.
Arsenal got through the first twenty minutes and then put a shot in for themselves with Nasri and a good effort at that. Arsenal did slowly get into the game but then lost momentum again when Andrey Arshavin went off injured. This was a major blow because I think Arshavin could have made a difference later in the game. Arshavin himself believed he and Arsenal could do something in the game.
After the injury, Barcelona once again took over and kept the ball very well. They did not create the chances they did in the first twenty minutes but still looked very dangerous.
Arsenal needed half time to come and to re-assess but before half time came another big blow. William Gallas, who only had two training sessions before the game, broke down. His calf had gone again and he had to be stretchered off.
Half time came, but Arsenal had been battered by Barcelona and lost two players through injury and had made two forced subs, however, Arsenal were still in the tie and a tie they probably didn’t deserve to be in.
The start of the second half was when Barcelona finally took their chances and went two up. Xavi who had covered the most distance in the game and had the most number of passes was pulling the strings.
The tie seemed over. Losing by two goals at home against a team like Barcelona, most people would have though the tie was over, but was it?
Arsenal showed passion and determination. They had been battered for the best part of two thirds of the game but did not give in. Theo Walcott made a huge difference and perhaps changed the game. He scored a goal and was involved in the other. Let’s not forget Nicklas Bendtner who provided an assist for the first goal and won an important header for the penalty.
At 2-2, Arsenal is still in the tie. Barcelona will be super favourites having the two away goals but at 0-2 down, just to be in the tie is something I was praying for.
At 0-2, I though we just need to give our self a chance in the second leg and we did that.
The loss of Fabregas is a huge blow. The yellow card he picked up was unfair, as he clearly got the ball. Injury would have prevented him from playing but did the yellow card affect his game slightly? Perhaps, His mind could have been on the fact that he will not be at the Camp Neu and also worried that he doesn’t get himself sent off.
I must be a little critical though; playing Fabregas and Gallas who were both doubts was always a risk. Perhaps, Fabregas should not have played because he clearly didn’t look fit and was not in the game much. Gallas had only a few days of full training and broke down. Arsene Wenger admitted that the Gallas decision did back fire.
Arsene Wenger, who see’s the players in training, can only make these decisions and perhaps both players were fit enough to play and it was just luck that they both broke down during the game.
If someone had said to me whether I would take a 2-2 draw, I would have not taken it, but after bring 0-2 down, a 2-2 does seem a good result. Off course Barcelona are favourites to win at home but Arsenal are still in this tie.
The injuries do not help, losing Arshavin and Fabregas along with the long term injury of Van Persie; we are losing in my opinion, our three most creative players. We do have Nasri, who is very close to joining that group. Nasri is key in the second leg and can really make a name for him self. Theo Walcott showed that Barcelona cannot handle him. Will he do the same if he starts or is he better as a super sub? How big will the loss of Gallas be?
Coming home from the Emirates, I felt privileged to have seen this great Barcelona side play at their best, however, I was pleased at the sprit Arsenal showed and at 0-2 down against Barcelona, we could have just lost all hope, but we didn’t and are still in the tie.
Let’s just go and play at the Camp Neu and play without fear, we are not expected to go through and the pressure will be on Barcelona to go through. They see themselves as the masters of the beautiful game and will be desperate not to lose to Arsenal who perhaps are still the pupils, but a win at the Camp Neu could change all that.
Come on you Arsenal.