Barcelona, (short of a second leg collapse for both) effectively set up a mouthwatering Champions League Semi Final Clash with bitter rivals Real Madrid following a sublime display against Ukranian side Shaktar Donesk last night.
Final Score Barcelona 5-1 Shaktar Donesk
Andres Iniesta was in inspirational form scoring the first and then setting up Danny Alves for the second, which effectively ended the tie after 34 minutes. Central defender Pique made the score 3-0 early in the second half, and although Rakitskiy briefly gave Shaktar a glimmer of hope, further goals from Keita on the hour mark and a late strike from Xavi secured a comfortable 5-1 win for the Catalonians.
Make no mistake Shaktar are a very good side and this display by Barcelona points to the theory that we might be looking at the finest club side ever esembled. All we can say is bring on Madrid who with the self proclaimed “Special One” Jose Mouriniho in charge might just ensure we get a competative game.
The Champions League Semi Final draw has paired Britains best hopes Chelsea & Manchester United guaranteeing an English presence in the last 4, but probably dashing any hope of an al English final. The final 8 are comprised of 3 English Clubs, 2 Spanish, and one each from Italy, Germany and the Ukraine.
Looking at the ties objectively we expect the final four to comnprise Inter Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid & Chelsea, although with teams of this quality anything can happen and some exciting football looks instore.
Inter Milan v Schalke 04
Real Madrid v Tottenham
Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk
Chelsea v Man Utd
Arsenal’s season took another knock last night as they went out of the Champions League 4-3 on aggregate to Barcelona. An Impressive win for Barcelona was somewhat marred however thanks to poor officiating which cumulated with a ludicrous decision to send of Van Persie for kicking the ball away despite the fact it would have been impossible for him to have heard that the Ref had blown his wistle.
To be fair it is unlikely that the decision affected the ultimate outcome as Arsenal failed to muster a single shot at goal while Van Persie was on the pitch and ended the game still without managing a shot and their attacking endevours only resulted in 2 corners.
The scores were level just before half time thanks to a Messi goal in first half stoppage time, and Arsenal did manage to regain the aggregate lead when Busquets put through his own net on 53 minutes. However even though Arsenal were defending resolutely Barcelona were always threatening and once down to 10 men it was inevitable that the Gunners would cave in.
The scores were levelled on aggregate in the 69th minute when Xavi 69 struck, and when Barcelona were awarded a slightly soft penalty Messi made no mistake to sent the Spanish side through.
This is the second season in a row that Arsenal have been knocked out by Barcelona and overall any neutral fan would acknowledge that Barca gave the gunners a footballing lesson.
Final Score Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal (aggregate 4-3)
When two of the best footballing sides in the World meet then it can either be a cancel out stalemate or a game to remember, and on this occasion for the majority of the 59,927 spectators it was the latter, as Arsenal recorded their first ever win over Barcelona.
Thankfully Arsenal facing a lavishly gifted Barcalona team decided to avoid the temptation to make the game physical and instead played their trademark passing game (probably aware of the result when Holland adopted such tactics against Spain in the World Cup Final) and the result was an open and highly entertaining game. The gamble looked to have back fired on the Gunners mud way through the first half when Villa opened the scoring, and even the most biased of Arsenal fan would have to agree that the Catalonian side were by far the better team going into the break.
Arsenal showed a bit more in the second half and Van Persie gave Barcelona a warning shot when he tested their goalie with a nice drive from the edge of the area. However Barcelona were still the better team and Messi should have extended Barcelona’s lead in the 67th minute but untypically he shot into the side netting when he would normally have scored.
This proved to be an expensive miss as in the 78th Minute Van Persie finally got Arsenal on the score sheet thanks to a bit of slightly sloppy goalkeeping by Valdes who stood statuesque as Van Persie’s shot beat him at his near post. To be fair he was expecting the cross, and the shot was struck perfectly, however it has to go down as a lucky break and the Gunners fully capitalised on this when Arshavin grabbed the winner 5 minutes latter following the nights best move as Arsenal broke out of defense with some panic free passing cumulating in Samir Nasri crossing for Arshavin to sweetly curl the ball home.
Barcelona then stepped up the pressure and created and had the chance to equalise, however Arsenal stood firm to take a famous victory and a narrow 2-1 lead to the Nou Camp in the second leg.
Barcelona & Real Madrid avoided each other in the semi final draw for the Spanish Copa del Rey setting up the prospect of a meeting in the final, with the winner potentially taking the Spanish Double of League & Cup.
Barcelona have the slightly easier task against La Liga strugglers Almeria who have probably over exceeded their expectations in reaching this stage, despite having had a fairly easy passage to this stage. Still they have been in entertaining matches having beaten Real Sociedad 5-3, Mallorca 8-6 and Deportivo 4-2 all on aggregate.
Real Madrid will play mid table Sevilla who are having a poor season by recent standards and the Cup probably is their only chance at Silverware this season and possibly of Europe too, so they will be fired up for this game. However it is hard to see them losing especially with the prospects of a Barca clash awaiting.
The first legs are scheduled for 26/01/11 and the second legs a week latter on 02/02/11.
After their marathon coach ride caused by the Volcanic ash cloud which has affected European flights, Barcelona looked decidedly below par when losing 3-1 to Inter Milan in the Champions League Semi Final. Despite taking the lead Barcelona never looked like the team who destroyed Arsenal in the previous round and with their influential central defender Carles Puyol being suspended for the second leg they will face an uphill struggle to reach the final again.
For two brief minutes mid way through the first half it looked like injury ravaged Arsenal may be capable of pulling off a shock, the the Lionel Messi show began and he showed why he is currently rated the Worlds best player. Messi hit a 1st half hat trick to effectively kill the game and grabbed his fourth 2 minutes from time to complete a scoreline which only slightly flattered Barcelona.
Hopes were high for Arsenal who included Theo Walcott from the start hoping his pace would unsettle Barcelona who themselves were missing their 1st choice central defenders, but the tactical decision to play the speedy Eric Abidal largely negated this threat and although they had their chances even Arsene Venger, gracious in defeat acknowledged that Barcelona are currently a better team.
Arsenal who are pretty much assured of a place in next seasons competition can now focus their attention on the Premier league, where they still have a faint chance of taking the title and Barcelona can look forward to facing Inter Milan in what should be an intriguing affair.
Arsenal will probably have to play 35 year old Sol Campbell from the start against Barcelona tonight as Alex Song has joined a worrying list of injuries for the London side. Also missing tonight will be captain Cesc Fabregas, Andrey Arshavin and William Gallas.
Barcelona themselves are not without concerns though as striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic who hit both their goals in the 1st leg is Injured and their defensive pair Captain Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique are both banned.
Sol Campbell scored the opening goal for Arsenal against Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League Final but they were already down to 10 men and Barcelona won with 2 late goals.
In a thrilling game at the Emirates stadium Arsenal battled back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2- with Barcelona in the Champions League quarter final, thanks in no small part to Theo Walcott who grabbed their first soon after comming on as a second half substitute.
In a game for the neutral fan to savour Barcelona dominated the first half with a great display of passing football and only some great goal keeping allowed Arsenal to go in level at half time. However Barcelona scored just after the start of the second half through Ibrahimovic and he added a second just before the hour mark.
Things looked bleak for Arsenal but in the 69th Minute Walcott pulled a goal back whicg gave the team a lift and when Puyol fouled Fabregas 5 minutes from time Arsenal scored the equaliser giving them a chance of progressing to the semi finals. Unfortunately both Fabregas and Puyol will miss the second leg as they are suspended after picking up cards.