NOBODY SAID IT WAS EASY!

Now I know I should have written this post yesterday, immediately following the Arsenal versus Barcelona match but I know that if I had typed anything whilst still basking in the euphoria of the match it would have virtually intelligible even for chimpanzees.

Which is why I have decided to wait till today, when emotions would have calmed down to do a proper analysis of the match.

And yes I know that there were other Champions League matches that took place during this week, but none of them matters in wake of the clash in North London, not even the 1-0 defeat of AC Milan in San Siro by Tottenham Hotspurs. Not even that!

So the match was everything it was expected to be and then some more. Barcelona dominated possession early on, pinging passes in between themselves with uncanny accuracy while Arsenal was reduced to attacks on the counter and almost crafted a goal when van Persie was sent through on goal but Victor Valdes was impressive in saving his shot.

And when the first goal came in the 26th minute, it was rightfully deserved for Barcelona as they had had at least one clear chance to score with Lionel Messi lifting the ball over Wojciech Szczesny but just wide of the right hand post.

And it was a classical Barcelona goal with Messi dribbling a few defenders and taking a few more for the ride then giving a slide rule pass to David Villa who was put onside by Gael Clichy. The Spanish international then duly obliged by slipping the ball under the onrushing Arsenal goalkeeper for the first goal.

But then the Barca boys seemed reluctant to add to their lead, seemingly content to just exchange innumerable passes with each other. And the Arsenal boys just sat back defending deep with the prodigious Jack Wilshere exceptionally impressive in the middle of the pack.

And the second half took on a different tone with Arsenal, apparently emboldened by the words of their manager, audacious to have sustained attacks far into the opponents’ half and Barcelona probably for the first time in the match on the back foot.

But it was really on the hour mark that the game turned on its head. That about when the Pep Guardiola, probably on account of his tactical naiveté, made the curious decision to substitute the goal scorer for the defensively-minded midfielder Seydou Keita thereby making diminutive Messi the centre forward.

Meanwhile, at about the same time, Arsene Wenger decided to bring on Nicklas Bendtner and Andrei Arshavin for Theo Walcott and Alex Song who was lucky to still be on the pitch which really set the cats among the pigeons.

Anyone watching the game could just fell that something was about to give. And give it did in the 78th minute.

Arsenal was making yet another foray into the Barcelona half, when the ball got to Gael Clichy’s right leg, which he normally uses only for standing, and then some kind of light must have come up in the French defender’s head because he decided not to switch the ball to his trusted left foot but instead to lob the ball towards the general direction of Robin van Persie.

And the inside of the Dutch striker’s head must have filled with light from a thousand sources because he decided not to play the ball across the box where Bendtner was bearing down on Maxwell but instead to strike the ball hard and low towards the space between the near post and Valdes’ leg which the Spanish goalkeeper left unguarded like a house with no valuables while he did his best impression of a celebrity who was surprised outside a seedy brothel by paparazzi.

Arsenal then took the lead in the 83rd minute when Johan Djourou lost the ball just outside the his own box but the outstanding Laurent Koscienly won it back and gave it to Bendtner. The Danish striker then cut inside and gave the ball to Wilshere who then passed it one time to the Arsenal captain. Cesc Fabregas then turned and controlled in one movement and played a perfect pass through the Barcelona defence towards Samir Nasri.

Nasri received the ball deep in the Barcelona half, looked up and saw that van Persie was tightly marked by the duet of Pique and Abidal, and then he must have noticed Arshavin striding across the path of Dani Alves who appeared to be investigating the cause of the deep green pigmentation of the Emirates playing surface as he trudged back reluctantly.

The pass from Nasri came through to the Russian and he curled the ball round the defenders in the box and into the net giving Arsenal a 2-1 lead which they take with them to the Nou Camp for the second leg in three weeks.

Now one thing I have noticed about this Barcelona team which stood out for me when I was watching the match and should stand the British team in good stead is that, as with most things in life, their greatest strength, which is their tiki-taka passing game comes around to be their greatest weakness.

Their passing game is designed to make their opponents make mistakes and leave gaps and then get tired as they chase the ball as it moves between the blur of Barcelona players. But this also has the inverse effect of also tiring the Barcelona players as the match enters the latter stages which is easily noticeable because they are usually a few goals up by that time (especially in the SPL; the Spanish/Scottish league).

Which could make the second leg an interesting prospect especially if Arsenal can keep the Catalan side from scoring more that a single goal early on.

In other news, the Cricket World kicked off yesterday with the opening ceremony in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The tournament which involves all Test playing nations and other countries that came through the qualifiers is being hosted by the trio of India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and would last for a whooping six weeks. The competition would be played with the 50 overs format and should make for a cracking completion particularly with one of the perennial favourites, India being one of the co-hosts.

That’s all for now folks. Till later.

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