Arsenal’s new found character and fighting spirit of recent weeks came to their rescue again against Barcelona, seeing them just about keeping the contest alive with a fighting 2-2 draw.
Barca manager Pep Guardiola would probably have took 2-2 before the match, but after the 1st half he must be massively disappointed the tie is not all over.
Barcelona ran them ragged in the first 20 minutes with a magnificent display of attacking football. They also forced Arsenal into mistakes by aggressively closing the Gunners down and giving them no time on the ball, not something you would usually associate with a Barca side.
With a start like that it looked like Arsenal would be thrashed out of sight, and in truth they should have been by half time. They were only saved by a remarkable 1st half performance from Almunia, who I criticized last weekend for blowing Aresnal’s Premier League challenge.
One of his saves from Xavi in the opening few minutes was a truely world class save for me, I was almost taking all the criticism back.
He even earned praise from his former arch rival Jens Lehmann, who during a half time interview heaped praise on his performance.
But, it wasn’t to last, less than 30 seconds into the 2nd half, and with the help of some bad defending, Almunia managed to get himself in no mans land, to enable Ibrahimovic to lob him for the first goal.
His second goal came from none too good defending as well. I have heard people criticize Almunia for the this goal as well, personally, I think it was just a good finish.
Barcelona got an up close look at Theo Walcott, they must have been worried by his pace. I wonder if Wenger will be bold enough to give Theo a start in the return leg next week?
There are a lot of open spaces in the Camp Nou that Walcott may be able to expose, with Fabregas out, Walcott could now be Arsenal’s best chance.
Arsenal’s fight back in the last 20 minutes has given them a fighting chance, but it is going to take something extraordinary to get a win in Barcelona next week.
Manchester United didn’t fair much better against Bayern Munich on Tuesday either, it was almost as if they thought they had the job done after been gifted an opening (away) goal in the 2nd minute.
Ok, they played reasonably well in the 1st half, and they did have some chances to put the tie to bed. But they didn’t take them and got punished for it later on.
They should have known Bayern wouldn’t be a pushover, I got the impression that United took them a bit lightly, their 2nd half performance looked more like they were just going through the motions.
I don’t think for a minute that this tie is over, the idea that a United victory at Old Trafford is just a formality isn’t a belief I hold.
I believe that United will have to up their game a fair bit to win throught this tie, their squad is now getting stretched and they also have a big league game against Chelsea on Saturday. If they are not careful, their season could take a massive turn for the worse over the next seven days.