Hmm…maybe not, but it certainly was a great night of football and an amazing accomplishment for Arsenal as they came from two goals behind to grab a 2-2 draw against Barcelona in their Champions League quarter-final first leg at Emirates Stadium. It was one of the most dramatic matches I had seen in a long time and I am glad I chose to forget that I had to write a 12 page paper for the following day.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic put Barcelona in front just 20 seconds after the beginning of the second half and added another one to his name on the 59th minute. Barça deserved their lead after their first half display, which was one of the most stressful 45 minutes a Gunners fan will ever have to endure. Arsenal was completely outplayed having to concede 70% of the ball possession and 13 shots against just that one Nasri curler. Rarely had I seen Wenger’s side dominated in such a way and I felt we were very lucky to be level at half-time. We were not getting caught on counter-attacks like we did at Chelsea and Manchester United, Barcelona was playing our own style against us, beautiful possession football that is.
If not for Manuel Almunia’s sudden burst of genius and world class triple saves - where did that come from?!- we could have come back from the locker room 2 or 3 nil down. To concede two quick goals after that was therefore a huge blow and I felt we were heading for a 4-0 or 5-0 battering, which could have been the case if we had not shown such great resolve and mental strength. I have to confess I am ashamed to have written Arsenal off and I am glad the lads proved me wrong.
The Gunners were absolutely outstanding in the last 20 minutes and piled on the pressure on Victor Valdes’ goal. The introduction of Theo Walcott, under England’s manager Fabio Capello’s watchful eyes, truly changed the rhythm of the game and Arsenal will feel satisfied with the result having proved we certainly are not pushovers and have our place among the best out there.
Barcelona will feel they have the upper hand going in the second leg with two away goals and Fabregas suspended. I still believe that we have a great chance to create an upset, especially with Piqué and Puyol also out of contention. All we can do now is hope for another great match and a win against Wolves this weekend.
On another note, I am glad the Arsenal fans gave Thierry Henry a great reception…and I’m even happier he didn’t score.
UPDATE: Fabregas has been ruled out for the rest of the season for the injury he sustained at the end of the Barça game. This news made me think just one thing (and this goes back to my previous entry): I hope it wasn’t Cesc’s last match for Arsenal.