Arsenal welcomed Barcelona to the Emirates stadium in a repeat of last season’s Champions League quarter final tie.
Arsene Wenger was in buoyant mood stating his side were much better prepared this time around to deal with the obvious quality and attacking threat of Pep Guardiola’s Catalan kings.
The game started at a ferocious pace with both sides set on playing open, attacking, free-flowing football.
Both sides were presented with early chances, with Lionel Messi going closest for Barcelona when he bided his time before chipping Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny only for his shot to edge agonisingly past the far post.
At the other end Arsenal looked dangerous on the counter-attack and drew a smart save from Victor Valdes when Robin Van Persie unleashed a fierce shot, with Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott also looking dangerous on either wing.
Just as Arsenal were gaining a foothold on the game, in the blink of an eye Barcelona had taken the lead when Messi elegantly slipped David Villa through one-on-one for him to slot the ball through the legs of the helpless Szczesny.
Minutes later Messi had a goal disallowed after a marginal offside decision as Barcelona began to dominate proceedings and Arsenal struggled to cope with their sudden resurgence.
As the half time whistle blew Wenger would have been grateful his side went in just one goal down with every chance of getting back into the game.
In the second half it was Arsenal who took the game to Barcelona, with Van Persie twice going close and Walcott a constant menace on the wing. Arshavin was introduced for the remaining 20 minutes and almost immediately turned the tie on its head.
Arsenal kept battling and Van Persie drove in an equaliser from the acutest of angles before Arshavin finished a flowing move in style from a late counter-attack in the final minutes to give Arsenal a precious 2-1 aggregate lead to take back to the Nou Camp in a fortnight’s time.
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