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Barça will be defending a healthy 2-0 lead when they meet Arsenal at the Camp Nou for the second leg of their Champions League last sixteen tie. Leo Messi scored twice in a feverishly paced encounter on Tuesday night, including the 10,000th goal in club history.
Fast and furious
The game was intense from the very first second, with football of the kind of quality that one would expect from two sides like this. Arsenal started bravely, but as the action progressed found themselves pushed further and further back onto their own half.
But that’s a situation the Gunners are typically comfortable with and their rapid counter attacks caused plenty of early danger. Had Oxlade-Chamberlain made better contact in the 22nd minute, he would probably have had Ter Stegen beaten.
And so it continued, with Barcelona governing the possession but Arsenal creating more in the way of real danger and the home defence immediately putting a stop to any trickery from the trident.
Everything but the goal
In the last minute of the half, things finally started to click. Suárez had a fine chance but opted to pass to Messi when a shot might have been a better option, and the Uruguayan was alone when his head met Alves’ pass, but the ball skimmed just wide of the post. The way things had suddenly started going, it was probably Arsenal who appreciated the sound of the half-time whistle most.
But the Catalans fired the first shot of the second half too, home keeper Petr Cech doing well to deny Neymar in a one-on-one. What followed was the type of football that Premiership followers know and love: non-stop and physical with the action rapidly switching from one end to the other.
Giroud came closest to a goal with a header that brought out the best and a bit more from Ter Stegen, while a golden opportunity for Suárez found neither the net nor Neymar, who arrived just too late to tap home.
And then after 71 minutes the game finally got the only thing it was lacking. A goal. Neymar charged through on the Arsenal area and laid the ball off to Messi, who for once was completely unmarked. The Argentinian rarely wastes chances like those, and at long last he’d scored his first goal against Cech.
The goal inspired the trident to unleash its full potential, and all three were involved in a lightning move that ended with Suárez slamming the ball onto the post. But Barça were now firing on all cylinders, and in the 83rd minute the lead was extended.
Flamini brought down Messi in the box and the Turkish referee had no option but to point at the spot. A spot from which the Argentinian made no mistake and the goal goes down in the record books as number 10,000 in FC Barcelona history.
There could have been another right at the end when Cech managed to get a stretched hand onto a Neymar header. But a 2-0 win against a very noble opponent is a result that Luis Enrique will be delighted to be taking to the Camp Nou for the second leg.
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