Just like in last season’s confrontation against Arsenal, the striker played a vital role with his two goals in the 3-1 victory.
Barcelona critics won’t stop complaining about how Robin van Persie’s rigorous red card had an impact in the final result that left Arsenal out of the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League. Referee Massimo Busacca showed van Persie his second yellow card of the match -the first one was received for pushing Alves in the face- after Arsenal’s striker didn’t obey the whistle that made the play invalid due to offside, and his team was left with ten players.
Regardless of the complains the statistics will reflect that in the 56 minutes that Arsenal played with 11 players in the field they reported no shots on goal, and that their goal was product of a misfortunate action from Busquets, who headed a corner kick into his own goal. With van Persie expelled the statistics suffered no changes for the Gunners, as they were going to end the game with no shots on goal, against 19 from Barcelona.
Arsenal’s coach Arsene Wegner probably thought that his players were going to be able to defend their advantage from the first game at home, which they won by 2-1 two weeks ago. But that advantage was only going to last until the epilogue of the first half, when Fabregas lost the ball to Iniesta, who immediately assisted Messi that with a touch of class lifted the ball over Armunia -Arsenal’s golie- and when it was coming down sent it to the back of the net to open the score.
With Messi’s goal Arsenal was forced to score if they wanted to stay alive in the competition, and they were able to do so thanks to the early mentioned own goal from Busquets, in the eight minute of the second half. Things were now 3-2 for Arsenal overall and roles where inverted, as now Barcelona was the team in need of goals.
Just three minutes later the game was going to give another spin with van Persie’s red card, which he “think it’s a total joke,” claiming that “there were 95,000 people jumping up, how can I hear the whistle?” Now Arsenal was going to be forced to resist the attacks from Barcelona with ten players and lose their reference in the offense.
Despite this setback for Arsenal, the game didn’t lose its line and continued to be a monologue from Barcelona, that with 21 minutes to go before the end was able put things 2-1 in the game and 3-3 overall, result that was forcing them to play the extra time to decide a winner. That goal was the result of a great collective play that began with Iniesta, who passed the ball to Villa to assist Xavi, and leave Barcelona just one goal away from the Champions League quarterfinals.
Luckily for them, just three minutes after Xavi’s goal Pedro was fouled inside the box by Koscielny, and got a penalty kick that was transformed into goal by Messi, who signed his second of the night in the 3-1 victory.
After being eliminated last year in the semifinals by Inter, Barcelona players promised their fans that this year they were going to make it to the final, which will be held in Wembley, England. Well, they didn’t qualify to that final yet, but they sure took one big steps towards the fulfillment of their promise.