Football

The Gunners put up a good fight before Messi struck late on.

Barcelona defeat showed Arsenal have come a long way since their last meeting

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For many Arsenal fans, painful memories remain vivid of Robin van Persie's controversial dismissal during the Gunners' decisive second leg defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League five years ago.

Fast forward to Tuesday past and such pain was once again felt, the Catalans walking away from the Emirates with a 2-0 victory in the last 16 first leg.

However, prior to Lionel Messi's opener following a devastating counter-attack in the 71st minute, Arsene Wenger's side proved themselves worthy adversaries to the European champions.

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For 70 minutes, the Gunners played with high intensity and a pressing style that largely nullified the effect of Barcelona's 'MSN', who had scored 91 goals combined this season prior to the clash.

Such a positive performance was made possible by the world-class players Wenger has recruited and nutured over the five years since their previous meeting.

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Petr Cech, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, all brought in by the Frenchman in each of the past three summer transfer windows, have added quality and flair to Arsenal's squad and their impacts have been apparent.

Cech’s fantastic saves to deny Neymar on two occasions kept his side's hopes alive throughout and epitomised the importance of having one of the world's finest shot-stoppers.

Arsenal FC v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg

Elsewhere, despite far from their best performances, Sanchez and Ozil showed glimpses of their class throughout, whether it was a mazy run from the Chilean or an incisive pass from Arsenal's German creator.

Contrary to previous encounters, the Gunners looked dangerous going forward and caused Barcelona's defence enough trouble to craft some excellent chances - it's just a shame they couldn't find the back of the net.

Elsewhere, the likes of Hector Bellerin, Francis Coquelin and Laurent Koscielny all played their part in containing Barca's attack, whilst Aaron Ramsey's energy proved vital in closing down Luis Enrique's men and affording them little time on the ball to work their usual magic.

Arsenal FC v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg

Arsenal appear likely to suffer the same fate as they have in the previous five seasons, yet there is no denying the north Londoners are getting stronger each year, irrespective of their failure to progress past the last 16.

What their performance against Barcelona ultimately gives Arsenal is the belief they can challenge Europe's best, which could prove vital in their Premier League aspirations.

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Topics:
Barcelona
Premier League
Thierry Henry
Lionel Messi
Football
Arsenal

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