Arsenal 2 Barcelona 1
These games set standards by which others are judged. Make no mistake, this was not merely essential football. Anybody who aspires to play, coach, manage, support or in any other way influence the game has a responsibility to watch games like this. When you have seen what is possible, the mundane becomes unattaractive. These games make the suffering endured against Newcastle (home and away) worthwhile.
A very good night apart from some dopey comments by Messrs. Tydesley, Townsend, Chiles, Southgate and Clarke. I couldn't believe some of the drivel being spouted. The after-game interview with Cesc featured a particularly dumb question. "How have you improved over the last year?" Are these people being paid for this lack of insight? We had over two-thirds of the starting line-up injured a year ago. Even if he hadn't seen last year's games, I should have thought that he would have at least researched the subject. The other thing that upset me was the sight of some of the Barcelona players rolling around in death spasms after minimal contact with our players, who, by the way, are not renowned for their impersonations of masonry or, indeed, other assorted architectural wonderment. I noticed a lot of that during last year's games. That is why Barcelona don't ever get 10/10 from me.
Szczesny did nothing wrong and managed to make himself big when required. Eboue had a reasonable game. Clichy and DJ were good. Kos made a few misplaced passes but made up for those with some decisive tackles and blistering pace. Song had a bit of the bull in a china shop about him at times tonight. I expected him to receive a red card, but he managed to walk the line. Cesc had a below-par game by his standards, but still produced moments of brillliance. The lofted pass over the defence for RVP in the first half, for instance. Jack had his best game yet. To produce a performance like that against the best team in the world is no mean feat. How good is he going to be when reaches the age of 23.
Nasri had a fairly quiet and not entirely effective game, although he did well holding on to the ball when under pressure from multiple defenders on many occasions, and kept his head when set free in the 83rd minute to produce a perfect pass for AA. Considering he has just come back from a 17 day injury absence, the performance was better than I expected. Theo had a good first half, but faded in the second. I feel that we did not make enough use of his pace during the game. Barcelona were really rattled when he was given a chance to run at them early on. We should have persisted with that strategy. RVP had quite a few chances (not all of them easy), and it looked like it wasn't going to be his night until Clichy set him up and he finished with the non-chocolate foot from an almost impossible angle that took Valdes by surprise at his near post.
I didn't see enough of Bendtner to make any comments here, but AA has the air of a man whose confidence is returning. His finish for the second goal was cool and hopefully, is a sign of things to come.
This was a welcome relief after the dire entertainment from the San Siro yesterday.
By the time the second leg comes around we will only be in three competitions, so the pressure will be easing!