26th minute. Lionel Messi plays a through ball for Villa, who times his run perfectly and beats Szczesny. It looked like a familiar story. Arsenal dominating the early exchanges, yet not burying their chances and the opposition comes away with a lead and puts Arsenal on the back foot. But this Arsenal side was out to defy this. And defy this they did.
The hype around this match was that of a Cup Final. And rightly so. The winner could very likely go on to lift the Champions League. The atmosphere at the Emirates was electrifying. A football spectacle was underway.
Barcelona controlled most of the match, and just when it looked all done and dusted, goalkeeper Victor Valdes allowed huge space to the near post, enabling Robin Van Persie to tie the score with a stunning finish in the 78th minute with his eighth goal in his last 11 games. With that, the momentum shifted. And sure enough, substitute Andre Arshavin slotted in the winner in the 83rd minute off a cross from Nasri on a rapid counterattack.
A word on performances, Van Persie early on failed to hit the target on numerous occasions, but his goal spraked the comeback that turned this match on its feet. Messi had a mediocre game from his standards. The standout player had to be Jack Wilshere though. The 19 year old showed such maturity and class, he is an asset English Football is fortunate to have.
This was the first time Arsenal have beaten Barcelona, and the first time any English team has, in the last 7 years. But the Gunners know that the job is far from over. Even a 1-0 win at Nou Camp for the Catalans will see them through. It is, for the moment at least, advantage Arsenal.
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