Written by Wonderman
Barcelona started the game with their one and two touch passing and movement when in possession and double and treble teaming when not, but unlike like last year we were putting pressure on the man on the ball and holding our shape well. Which is one hell of a task when you see how Barca position themselves with their full backs playing as additional midfielders. In the 3rd minute we got a free kick on our left which Nasri floated in , but Valdes was in control as no one made any contact.
In the 4th minute Wallcott swapped passes with Fabregas and put on the gas in the direction of the goal. In my opinion he took the wrong choice in trying to slide Robin in with the outside of his foot when Nasri was in more space, but the ball ran out harmlessly as Theo hit it a little too hard. In the 6th minute Walcott danced his way into the 6yrd box, layed off to Cesc who then provided a sumptuous chip into Robins path but Valdes was equal to the shot.
Almost immediately Barca were on the counter with Messi running at our back line, Song intervened and got a yellow card for his trouble ( but very necessary) the next few minutes saw both teams showcasing their passing but we were losing the ball needlessly with Djourou and Cesc being the main culprits. In the 14th minute a slide rule pass saw Messi through on goal but Chesny won the game of bluff and Messi screwed his shot wide of the post. Barcelona then went onto enjoy 60% possession for the next 10 minutes and the scene was set.
We seemed comfortable playing on the break including a rapid break in the 24th minute started by Wilshere who found Walcott just outside our 18 yard box. Again Walcott ran at their defence attracting four players with the aid of Van Persie’s intelligent movement. This allowed Fabregas space to receive Walcotts pass, unfortunately his cross was intercepted by Pique stopping an almost certain goal from van P.
A minute later we were behind . A foul in Barca’s defensive 3rd led to a temporary loss of concentration and after a short spell of inter passing Messi fed Villa who slotted under the onrushing Chesney. In the stadium I thought he was offside, bt replay’s showed that Clichy was playing him on 0-1. But my worry was Alex Song . Having been booked in the 6th min Song committed foul after foul and was in danger of being sent off. Strangely I still felt that we would score.
Chesney pulled off another save at his feet in the near post and another attack on the break saw van P shoot wide. Barca were beginning to enjoy themselves , they are the masters of finding space offensively with 1 touch passing and movement but more impressively they press in 2’s and 3’s to win the ball back. However we seemed to be helping them by not using what little possession we had in a more penetrating way. Half time 0-1 but a much more even game than we had last year.
We started the 2nd half brightly and Wilshere continued where he left off ( someone needs to check his passport). We were pressing Barca well and seemed to be adopting the counter attack approach. Nasri was getting fitter as the game went on and we started to force corners and free kicks as Barca’s work rate began to diminish. Koscielny was making a mockery of all those who doubted the validity of his purchase and Jack continued to play as if he was in the park. We had eradicated our sloppy passing and were beginning to ask questions further up th field. For all their possession in the second half it was Valdes who was doing all the work. Messi was going deeper and deeper and attempting to run at our defence . In the 67th minute he got through on their left but hit the side netting.
That could be seen as the turning point. Villa was subbed for Keita and Song removed for his own good for Arshavin. All of a sudden we were beginning to find space, it appeared the superior pace of the prem had primed our players to perform at a higher intensity for longer. Cesc was finding his range and Eboue had taken his scaredy cat glasses off. In the 77th minute Clichy and Arshavin combined on our left which resulted in a right footed chip from Clichy which put van P in at a ridiculous angle. With Bendtner’s run seducing Valdes into expecting the cross Robin lashed it in at the near post 1-1 and the stadium went mad .
Barca seemed to be trying to hold out for the result but we were having none of it . Five minutes later Koscielny again intercepted, fed Bendtner, who found Wilshere, one touch to Fabregas who with a sublime pass found Nasri on the right , Robin raced forward to cause confusion as Nasri delayed, cut inside and fed an on coming Arshavin to curl the ball into the net 2-1 and cue absolute madness !!! No less than we deserved and a finish not to be underestimated. Barca’s problem now was they had 6 minutes to change their mindset. They had a couple of chances but Chesney was more than up for it
Cheers of ‘we’ve got Cesc Fabregas ‘ rang around the stadium…maybe I wasn’t mad in predicting we would triumph over 2 legs after all…..
Wojciech Szczesny– Did less work in the whole game than Almunia did in the first 20 minutes last year. This boy’s decision making was spot on last night and the defence seem to trust him implicitly. I cant see the shirt being taken from him 8
Emmanuel Eboue – A whiff of a dive here and there, and a touch of fear in the first half, not as marauding as we know he can be, but to be fair to him he was not exposed once in the game and I can think of worse back up right backs 7
Johan Djourou – Was alarmingly wasteful with his distribution in the first half , but his partnership with Koscielny is flourishing. A much better second half performance and proved he is just as good on the deck as he is in the air 8
Laurent Koscielny – It is easier to say what he did’nt do well….misplace maybe two passes…. This guy is still not the finished article, but anyone who dares to argue that there is not potentially a world class defender in this guy must be mad my joint MOM 9
Clichy – A lot of their attacks came down his side but other than playing Villa onside for their goal, the usual aggressive quick and committed performance 8
Alex Song – Was harshly booked early on and lucky not to be sent off in my opinion. Not his best , but not his worst performance and his substitution probably saved us going down to 10 men , but battled for the cause 7
Jack Wilshere –I am lost for words for this young man. He respects no opponent and plays with the same intensity every game. I feel the grit and determination of Jack and Kosser were instrumental joint MOM 9
Cesc Fabregas – Was guilty of many a misplaced pass in the first half but didn’t give up. Was instrumental in the winning goal with his early defence splitting pass 8
Samir Nasri – I was surprised to see him start and he looked off the pace in the first 25 mins but seemed to grow as the game went on. Excellent awareness for the winner 8
Theo Walcott – Obviously scared the living daylights out of them periodically and was double and treble teamed for his trouble . I suspect he will cause more havoc on the Nou Camp pitch 7
Robin van Persie – World Class sums Robin up . ran his legs off for the majority of the game without seeing too much of the ball but never gave up. Scored from a ridiculous angle and realy should have had another goal in the first half 8.5
Nick Bendtner– Didn’t do a lot , but I think his run was instrumental in concerning Valdes for Robin’s equaliser 6.5
Arshavin – Came on and ran at the opposition, almost gifted them an equaliser, but is back on form. I would have started him, but what do I know ? crucially scored the winner which was no easy finish 8