Arsene Wenger‘s solid plan to stop Barcelona almost worked, but the reigning champion Blaugranas got a second-half road brace from Lionel Messi to take a 2-0 advantage back to Spain after Tuesday’s first leg in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.
The second leg is March 16 at the Camp Nou.
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Arsenal worked a brilliant spell of possession but found a weak bit of finish as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain couldn’t get enough mustard on his 10-yard shot, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen got low to collect his shot.
Luis Suarez was a hair off, and that helped Arsenal get to halftime after the Uruguayan just missed putting the Blaugranas ahead with a left-footed miss and a just-wide header.
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6 – Lionel Messi has faced Petr Cech six times in the Champions League and is yet to score past him. Barrier.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 23, 2016
Petr Cech was a difference maker in the first half, and he started the second frame with a sliding stop of Neymar.
Ter Stegen was no slouch himself getting low to stop a header from Olivier Giroud in the 60th minute.
Arsenal employed a high press whenever Barca’s backs got the ball, and it was fairly effective. Plus attack-minded players like Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud made some critical tackles in their own third.
Thing is, all it takes is a moment, one that came on a Barca counter. Messi was on the business end of a prime chance after a neat 1-2 between Luis Suarez and Neymar down the left wing, and he made Petr Cech slide free of the net before finishing his chance.
It should’ve been 2-0 after Messi teed up Neymar and then Suarez. The Brazilian had his shot blocked and the Uruguayan cranked one off the right post to keep it 1-0.
At the other end, Ter Stegen made a point-blank parry on Aaron Ramsey to keep the score line the same.
Cech made a terrific stop in stoppage time on a substandard Neymar header, and Arsenal can still dream of an upset in Spain.