If Arsenal make it to the semis of this year’s Champions League, then this match would be an epic match in the history of Arsenal Football Club. And the man who shaped it, our captain fantastic – Cesc Fabregas. He has probably sacrificed his 2010 World Cup dreams and the Premier League campaign for this season, by committing himself to this match. Hats off to you Cesc, you are the man. 2-2 is definitely advantage Barcelona, but it also has a shimmer of hope for Arsenal. Barcelona has probably left the door slighlty open for Arsenal to take a peep and maybe their way through to Europe and history!
The match did not have any of the Messi magic in it, but for the first 20 minutes, it showed the passing skills, possession power and movement of the Barcelonna players. They are miles ahead of this Arsenal team. I think the Gunners were in awe of the Catalans during that time. The fluidity of the Spanish team was a delight to watch if you are not an Arsenal fan. It was only the luck and pluck of Almunia which kept us in the match in the first 20 minutes. I thought tonight Almunia can make no mistake. How wrong I was going to be proven in the second half. Nasri and Song were our best player on the field other than Almunia in the first 45 mins. We were not even able to get a string of passes together. Barcelona had so much possession in the whole match that Guardian reports that Barcelona had 533 completed passes to Arsenal’s 265!
Arshavin who was having a rather unproductive match went for a misplaced tackle and got yellow carded. I think his tackle also got him injured. He might not make it to the weekend premier league, but I hope he will be fit for the return leg in Nou Camp. Gallas has most probably played his last match for the team,looking at the way he might miss the rest of the season with his calf problem and also how his contract talks are progressing. So these two substitutions in the first half meant Arsenal had just one more card to play in the second half depending on how the match progressed. Wenger himself admitted that the gamble on Gallas didn’t pay off.
Ibrahmovic who missed a couple of chances in the first half, made up for it by beautifully lobbing the ball over a I-should-not-have-advanced-Almunia. Our goalie had no business to come so much forward. And before the first minute of the second half, we were a goal down,nullifying all our efforts of the first 45 minutes. Ibrahmovic again produced a stunning finish, which saw Almunia helpless again. These two away goals meant Arsenal had a monumental task ahead in this match as well as the return leg. To be honest I was resigned to the fact that I will take 2-0 and hope that we do not concede again. The yellow to Fabregas(for a tackle from behind, where he got the ball, but I think the referee had a pathetic match) meant he won’t be playing in the return leg,so I was hoping that he would contribute in some way in this match and keep the scoreline intact.
As the second half progressed, Barca slowed down and let Arsenal take control of the match. Wenger’s gamble on his last substitute paid off. He got in Walcott for Sagna and Eboue went to right back. Walcott’s speed caught Barca off-guard as he ripped the right back. And his goal was a lucky break. He hit straight at the goalie and Valdes goofed up. Suddenly it looked like we had a chance to equalise, Fabregas pressed forward as if he wanted to prove to his old club that he still has the fight left in him. And one such move caught Puyol and resulted in a straight red card to the Barca captain and a penalty for Arsenal. Cesc converted the penalty and injured his shin.
As he said later
I do not think it is going to be good news, but still I hope there will be.When I took the penalty, I was quite strong, but after when I went to get the ball, I could not walk any more.
It is the fibula. I think I put my leg between Puyol’s when I was fouled, and kicked it.
Until the penalty, I was feeling quite good. It has been an amazing experience and I will remember it for the rest of my life.
After the match, Arsene said that he wanted Fabregas to come off as he was injured. But he was determined to stay on. Wenger says that Fabregas’ decision was based on adrenaline and it might have worsened the injury – a possible shin fracture!
The x-ray done after the match has proved to be inconclusive but the full extent of his injury will be known later today. But going by the look of how Fabregas is feeling about it, I don’t think it will be good news. One thing is him missing the rest of the season and the other thing is the poor chap missing his dream of playing in the World Cup. Lets keep our fingers crossed and hope he recovers soon, really soon.
So the return leg on April 6th will hopefully be an equally thrilling match. Gallas is out and so is Fabregas who is suspended for this match (if he recovers from the injury). Arshavin is out aswell. We have a 2 away goal deficit. The only advantage we have is that the first choice centre backs of Barcelona are suspended. I don’t know how much of an advantage that is. So in order to go through to the semis, we have to either win the match or have 6 goal draw. And to take the return leg to extra time we need atleast a 2-2 draw.
I know it is a big ask for this team. But coming down from 0-2 down and then equalising against probably the best team in the world is no mean task. This team has done this with 2 of their best players injured in the first half, their captain disappointed in knowing he won’t play in the return leg as well as injuring himself. So this Arsenal team is different