Arsenal came from behind to beat Barcelona 2-1 on a famous night at the Emirates stadium. Goals from Robin Van Persie and Andrey Arshavin sent the Emirates into ecstasy at the final whistle as the Gunners triumphed over, arguably, one of the finest teams of our generation. Arsenal were unrecognisable in comparison to the team that were outplayed by the same team last year. They certainly set out to prove a point not allowing Barcelona the time or space to mesmerise the Emirates as they had done last season. But Arsenal’s defence has been shaky this year and it was inevitable that Barcelona would have a chances. Surprisingly, Lionel Messi was to blame as he was guilty of missing a clear cut chance to silence the Emirates early on. The World Player of the Year atoned for his error by sending David Villa through on goal to expertly slide his finish underneath Wojciech Szczesny in the twenty sixth minute, leaving Arsenal rattled after their positive start to the game. After that it looked like Barcelona would run away with it, Messi being denied a goal for offside and Szczesny coming to his team’s aid blocking Pedro’s shot from Villa’s cross.
By half time Barcelona had held 60% possession with the midfield maestro Xavi having completed 48/51 passes attempted in the first half. However, as the second-half wore on, the Catalans relaxed and seemed to think they had won the tie with that goal as Villa was eventually replaced by the defensive Seydou Keita mid way through the second half. This galvanised Arsenal into action as they played with grit and determination in refusing to switch their virtues of attacking football for physical presence. Wilshere epitomised this with a man of the match performance producing a dazzling display of skill, determination and English grit. Arsenal took the game to Barcelona and got the goal they deserved as Robin Van Persie smashed a left footed shot at a tight angle past the despairing Valdes who didn’t have time to move. The goal sparked the crowd into life, Barcelona were suddenly rocking and Wenger’s team turned the tie on its head and scored the winner when Arshavin arrived on the end of Nasri’s right-flank cross to steer a precise finish past Valdes in the eighty second minute.
It was a truly great night for Arsenal, a deserved victory against a truly great side that at times underestimated Arsenal and failed to finish off the tie despite long periods of possession. Arsenal are only half way and the Nou Camp beckons in a tie delicately poised, but for now the Gunners can savour Arsene Wenger’s first victory in eight attempts over the Catalonian Giants.
Tottenham Hotspur’s romance with the Champions League continued as they returned to the San Siro snatching a crucial away goal in a 1-0 win. It was another famous night for the club as Peter Crouch scored in the eightieth minute courtesy of a fantastic run from Aaron Lennon. AC Milan had many reasons to be confident with Gareth Bale , the scourge of their bitter rivals Inter Milan, out with a back injury: one of many injuries leaving a skeleton of Redknapp’s best starting XI. Tottenham were spirited, adventurous, but with a degree of vigilance.
This Milan side are a shadow of the teams that was so revered and feared in the 1990s, it is a squad undoubtedly packed with talent, but ageing and shows how far the standards in Italian football have dropped. Tottenham’s players were young, ambitious, fresh and skilful while Milan were, at times, simply lethargic. Only when Alexandre Pato was introduced did Milan begin to threaten with Herulho Gomes being forced into a series of fine saves. The home side’s increased appetite spilled over into overly aggressive play at times and ex-Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini should have been sent off for a two-footed lunge on Corluka but fortunately escaped with a yellow card. The San Siro was then stunned into silence as Lennon took the ball, outpaced the defence and showed great composure and awareness to tee up Crouch for the crucial goal Tottenham craved and deserved. The emotion spilled over with a scandalous display from Milan skipper, Gennaro Gattuso. He and Joe Jordan’s dispute throughout the second half spilled over into a confrontation sparked by the Italian, who appeared to head-butt Joe Jordan at the end of the match, after thrusting his hand in his neck violently during the second half. This incident has been a stain on a famous victory for Tottenham Hotspur who did themselves proud in a stadium which has historically been a graveyard for English football clubs.
Other Champions League results included a 1-1 draw between Valencia and Schalke, Soldado gave the Spanish side the lead as he who netted his fifth goal of the competition. Despite Valencia’s domination, Schalke hit back with a crucial away goal through none other than Spanish legend Raul who notched a landmark goal in his career taking his goal tally in the Champions League to 70. He is now the highest goal scorer in the history of the competition. Clouds gathered over Rome as Claudio Ranieri’s Roma were swept aside by Shakhtar Donetsk who scored three away goals in 12 minutes to stun Roma and seize the advantage after the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie. Simone Perotta nodded Roma ahead from close range before Jadson equalised with a deflected strike. Douglas Costa curled in a superb shot to give Shakhtar the lead before Luiz Adriano calmly slotted in the third. Jeremy Menez pulled a goal back with a great effort from just outside the area but Shakhtar held on for a superb win. The Ukrainian side are in the ascendency and with three away goals are favourites to reach the quarter finals.