Last night, Arsenal were facing one of the toughest games possible… an away trip to the Nou Camp to face Champions League favourites Barcelona. They carried forward a 2-1 lead after Robin Van Persie and Andriy Arshavin brough Arsenal from behind at the Emirates.
The injury stricken North London club took to the field with both Van Persie and captain Fabregas not 100% fit. Injury woes only got worse for Arsenal as keeper Wojciech Sczesny suffered a thumb injury, while saving a Dani Alves free kick, leaving substitute Manuel Almunia to take his place.
The deadlock remained untill the 45th minute of the feisty game, when Fabregas’ attempted back heel ended at the feet of Iniesta, who threaded the ball through to Lionel Messi, slotting the ball perfectly passed Almunia.
Arsenal equalised on the night as makeshift centre back Sergio Busquets headed into his own net, giving the Gunners a 3-2 lead on aggregate… and that crucial away goal.
The referee then handed Barca the gift of a lifetime, an unjustified red card for striker Robin Van Persie. The Dutch man was cruelly sent off for supposedly kicking the ball away after an offside, a ridiculous decision considering the incessant whistling from the Catalan supporters.
This changed the shape of the game and left the 10 man Gunners with little chance of qualification. Barca quickly regained the lead after Xavi slotted home yet another slick move from the Spanish side. They added another goal as Laurent Koscielny fouled in the box, leaving Messi to tuck home the penalty.
The game panned out with very few Arsenal chances and the Gunners were defeated 4-3 on aggregate.
Arsene Wenger was extremely disappointed with the referee’s decision to send off Van Persie and has resulted in both him and Samir Nasri being charged by UEFA for improper conduct and use of “inappropriate language”. Wenger has every right to be upset with a decision that has potentially cost them their place in the Champions League.
However, this does leave Arsenal to focus on both the Premiership and the FA Cup as they play Manchester United at Old Trafford this weekend.
Their North London rivals Tottenham Hotspurs proceeded to the quarter finals after they drew 0-0 with AC Milan, winning 1-0 on aggregate.
Only time will tell how both United and Chelsea will fare in their respective Champions League games… But I predict both to progress with ease to the Quarter Finals.