Football

Barcelona end Arsenal Euro dream

Barcelona end Arsenal Euro dream (©PAphotos)
Barcelona end Arsenal Euro dream (©PAphotos).

Arsenal were left fuming with Swiss referee Massimo Busacca after being knocked out of the Champions League following a 3-1 defeat by Barcelona.

Busacca sent off striker Robin van Persie and awarded Barca a crucial penalty in an exhilarating final 45 minutes of their last-16 second leg at the Nou Camp as the Gunners went down 4-3 on aggregate.

With Arsenal holding a 2-1 lead from the first leg, Lionel Messi produced a brilliant late first-half leveller. Sergio Busquets' own goal restored Arsenal's lead only for Van Persie to be harshly dismissed for time-wasting, before Xavi's neat finish and a Messi spot-kick ended Arsenal's European campaign.

Barcelona pressed Arsenal back, with Johan Djourou producing a superb saving tackle to deny Xavi with Pedro drilling the loose ball over the crossbar. Barcelona then almost fluked an opening goal on 35 minutes when a curled cross from left-back Adriano struck the outside of the near post.

Tempers boiled over when Jack Wilshere went to ground as he stretched for a loose ball at the edge of the Barcelona penalty area, the home players claiming a dive which led to van Persie and former Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano squaring up before calm was eventually restored. Van Persie had not calmed down and picked up a needless yellow card on the stroke of half-time for barging Alves over.

Cesc Fabregas, returning to his boyhood club for the first time, then inexplicably tried to backheel the ball to Wilshere on the edge the Arsenal penalty area, but gave it straight to Andres Iniesta. Messi - who netted all four Barcelona goals in last season's game here - was away, and brilliantly chipped Almunia before lashing the ball into the empty net.

Arsenal looked to be facing an uphill battle for the second half, but were presented with a lifeline on 53 minutes. Samir Nasri got away down the left and won a corner which he swung into the six-yard box where Busquets headed it past his own goalkeeper.

The tie then took another twist when van Persie latched onto a throughball, but was ruled offside, which looked marginal. The Holland forward lashed the ball wide and was shown a second yellow card, swiftly followed by a red. Van Persie and the Arsenal players could not believe it, as the striker claimed he could not hear the whistle.

The Catalans finally regained the advantage on 68 minutes when Xavi slotted home after being played in following a quick exchange between Iniesta and David Villa.

Before Arsenal could regroup, Barcelona were awarded a penalty when Laurent Koscielny tripped Pedro and Messi slotted it into the bottom corner to put Barcelona within touching distance of the last eight. Nicklas Bendtner was agonisingly close to connecting with Wilshere's cross into the six-yard box, but it was not to be for the Gunners.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Topics:
Arsenal
Robin Van Persie
European News
Football
Johan Djourou
Premier League
UEFA Champions League
Jack Wilshere
Laurent Koscielny
Nicklas Bendtner
Liverpool
Samir Nasri

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