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We can now add Arsenal FC — not to mention a cold, steady rainfall — to the litany of obstacles unable to impede FC Barcelona.
With virtually every seat under cover spoken for and with scattered blotches of fans clad in thin plastic ponchos huddled together elsewhere in an attempt to stay warm and dry, goals from Neymar, Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi were more than enough to knock Arsenal out of the UEFA Champions League on a wet and chilly Wednesday night at Camp Nou.
Neymar gave Barça a 1–0 lead in the 18th minute before Arsenal drew level shortly after the half. But with the Gunners pushing hard to make things interesting, Suárez put FCB back on top in 65th to dash the Londoners’ hopes.
Messi closed out the scoring with a quintessential chip in over the goalkeeper’s head in the 88th minute.
Barça goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen made several key saves including a sublime, diving stop on former Barça striker Alexis Sánchez in the 80th minute.
The triumph qualifies Barça for the tournament’s quarter-final round for the ninth consecutive season. It is also their ninth straight victory across all competitions, and it brings their overall unbeaten streak to 38 games.
The Blaugranes remain undefeated in the Champions League this season.
This is the third time FC Barcelona have bounced Arsenal from Europe’s top competition, after previously doing so in 2010 and 2011.
Barça took a 1–0 lead in the 18th minute when Luis Suárez astutely used Messi as a decoy and split three defenders with a perfectly timed through ball to the cutting Neymar, who calmly slotted in to hand Barça the early advantage.
One minute earlier Messi had sneaked behind a pair of defenders to deftly haul in a low-arcing chip pass from Neymar, but was stoned in the mano a mano by Gunner goalkeeper David Ospina.
Arsenal’s chances were few and feeble in the first half hour, among them a trio of innocuous, long-range shots from Mesut Ozil, Mohamed Elneny and Mathieu Flamini — each coming from further out than the last — which were all off target.
Alexis let an excellent chance slip away in the 40th when he nodded wide from the six-yard box.
With the second half underway and the away goals rule dictating Arsenal would need three to go through, the atmosphere was subdued.
In the 51st, though, the ambience became suddenly lively as Elneny drew Arsenal level after taking a pass from Alexis and one-timing past Ter Stegen from the edge of the penalty area. The shot appeared to partially deflect off the back of Barça midfielder Sergio Busquets, thus altering the ball’s trajectory.
With the temperature steadily dropping, and every Arsenal foray into the Barça area eliciting a symphony of nervous oohs and ahhs, Suárez, applying a textbook side-volley to a precision cross by Dani Alves, went top shelf to put Barça back up, 2–1 in the 65th minute.
With Arsenal abruptly back to square one and in need of three more goals to stay alive in the tournament, Barça’s water resistant, clockwork ball-control made sure it was just a matter of time.
Then Messi chimed in and it was all over.
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