Last night Arsenal became the first English side to exit the Champions League, losing on the night 3-1 to
, meaning an aggregate loss of 4-3. And to be fair, I don’t think that there can be any complaints from Wenger or other Arsenal fans. Barcelona
Throughout both legs Barcelona were by far the better team and it is testament to how far Arsenal have come over the past year or so that they were always within touching distance. Who knows, if Wenger had a higher calibre player than Bendtner on the bench Arsenal may have stolen the tie on away goals. But, it wasn’t to be.
The main talking point of the night surrounds the controversial manner in which Robin Van Persie was sent off but I have a slightly different opinion to the consensus. First of all I think that it is a very harsh second yellow. Whether rightly or wrongly, not all yellow cards are equal and this certainly didn’t deserve a second yellow. To provide a bit of context, a yellow card for kicking the ball away is appropriate, in my mind at least, if a team commits a foul and then kicks the ball away, thus preventing the other team taking a quick free kick. That is disruptive to the flow of the game, takes away the advantage unfairly from the attacking team and is rightly punished. In the instance of Van Persie last night he took a shot towards the goal and it was all pretty innocuous. However, to say that he didn’t hear the whistle and protest total innocence is, for me, a step too far. Firstly, all the other players heard the whistle throughout the game so why not in this instance. I certainly don’t think that 85-odd thousand Barca fans were that excited about him receiving the ball and it would be naïve to suggest that the Arsenal contingent drowned out the whistle. Secondly, Van Persie’s run took him towards the assistant referee and I firmly believe that he knew he was offside as he would have seen the flag go up himself. This is then compounded by the fact that Van Persie took a shot outside of the box with his right foot whilst at a difficult angle. All this adds up to say that he just swung a leg at it when he realised he was offside. That is not to say that I think he deserved to get sent off; far from it. But he knew what was going on and just didn’t expect to be booked.
The two other incidents that I took away fall into the categories of ridiculous and sublime. To cover the former, what was Fabregas doing with that backheel 20 yards out from his own goal?! Did he suddenly think that
may lay off the relentless pressing for a while? Foolish indeed and it got punished. And how it was punished. The boy Messi is absolute class and that little flick that lifted the ball over Almunia proved it. On first viewing I thought that he had half volleyed the ball and it had rebounded back into his path. No such luck involved here; it was all skill. Messi’s quickness of thought and fleet of foot produced a moment of brilliance that the naked eye took two views to pick up. Barcelona
When compared to Bendtner’s chance late in the game, it is clear to see that the best side won.