Barcelona Rue Missed Chances
It was a game hyped as a meeting of the two best footballing teams in Europe... FC Barcelona, the Catalan champions of Europe vs. their younger proteges Arsenal FC, playing a similar attacking style of play and captained by none other than Cesc Fabregas - the man who left BCN for North London six years ago (and is tipped one day to return to his boyhood club).
If neutrals were expecting an even match full of goal-to-goal action they will have been bitterly disappointed, as Barcelona spent the first 15 mins of the game laying siege to the Arsenal goal with the home team barely registering a touch. It was a display of attacking brilliance that coach Pep Guardiola hailed the best he'd ever seen his all-star team play - however somehow, thanks to a superhuman effort by Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, the scores stayed at nil all when it could have been three of four to Barca and game over.
Despite one or two more chances that was how the score remained until the start of the second half when Pique played in Ibrahimovic behind the Arsenal defence and he scored a superb volley over the head of Almunia - at last powerless to stop the ball ending up in the net.
Ibrahimovic capped a fine night with a second goal minutes later and it seemed that Barcelona's dominance was finally going to force open the flood gates. But Arsene Wenger (having had to use two of his substitutions to replace the injured Arshavin and Gallas) used his only remaining substitution to throw on another forward in the form of pacey England international Theo Walcott - the fastest man in football. Walcott made his presence felt almost immediately speeding onto a through ball and slotting his shot home underneath Valdes. It was a cruel blow for Barcelona and gave the home side some belief, after being dominated so badly for so long.
Disaster struck for Barca when Puyol was judged to have fouled Fabregas in the box - a harsh decision but the penalty was given. Yet more harsh was the decision to show Puyol a straight red card. Fabregas powered the penalty home to make it 2-2 on the night, and an almost ludicrously bad reflection of the balance of play. Barca will still feel confident that they can hold Arsenal at home at Camp Nou, but they will have to do so without both Pique and Puyol, both of whom will be suspended for the match.