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Apr 1, 2010

A spectacular last twenty minutes performance by Arsenal inspired by Theo walcott saw Barca relinquishing a healthy two goal lead and eventually drawing the game. Everyone thought that two second half goals from Ibrahimovic were enough for Barca to seal the tie but late goals from Walcott and Fabregas left the honours even at Emirates. This draw has made the second leg tie at the Camp Nou very interesting; Barca hold a upper hand with the two away goals, but as I have posted earlier those may amount to nothing as Arsenal will be coming out in full force to attack Barca. To complicate matters, Barca will be without their regular choice centre defenders for the second leg. Pique was shown a yellow card which makes him ineligible for the second leg, whereas Puyol was shown a straight red. Arsenal also has Cesc Fabregas suspended for the second leg. To the build up of this game I have emphasised on the need to stay focussed on the task, but after the second goal we took the eye of the game and that resulted in the draw.

Guardiola has been experimenting with his 4-2-3-1 formation for long. He employed the same tactic in this match also. I have many times expressed that such a tactic puts under immense pressure on counter, and I was proven right in last twenty minutes. The formation worked for the first half an hour as Arsenal was struggling to get into the game, but eventually they adapted and kept Messi out of the game by closing him down. In such a formation it is easy to do that. It is necessary for the team to start with the customary 4-3-3 formation in the second leg, so that we can use the width of the pitch. Guardiola started witha squad as expected. Alves, Puyol, Pique and Maxwell lined up in the defense. Xavi and Toure played in the midfield and ahead of them was the triangle of Keita, Messi and Pedro and Ibrahimovic further up.

FC Barcelona Dominates Completely in the First Half

The initial 20-25 minutes in the first half looked like we were giving Arsenal a footballing lesson. Arsenal hardly got hold of the ball. In the second minute Barca had their first shot on target when Busquets shot was saved by Almunia from a cleverly taken Xavi corner. In the 6th minute Messi tears through the Arsenal defense but his shot was saved by Almunia with his legs. In the 7th minute Ibrahimovic missed a golden chance from a great Alves cross. In the 13th minute Messi blasted high from just outside a box, something he used to regularly put in the back of goal. The build up was excellent with Keita laying off a Alves cross to Xavi who inturn laid it for Messi. Then in the 15th minute there was total madness in the Arsenal box. Ibrahimovic, Xavi, Messi all had shots saved by Almunia. Arsenal had their first attack with Nasri on the left when he curled the ball but missed the far post by some inches. In the 33rd minute Ibrahimovic flashed wide after messi slided the ball to him. In the 37th minute Bendtner gave Barca a double scare but he was correctly judged offside. The rest of first half ended without much fanfare. Barca dominated the possession but reduced the tempo as the half progressed. Messi was creating all the dangers in the start of first half, but with Arsenal getting comfortable with our formation they started to cut supplies to him. That also left Alves with the only option of crossing on the right.

Barca Takes the Lead ealry on the Second half

Barca took the lead early on the second half. Within second into the half, Pique played a long ball to Ibrahimovic on the right who chipped the ball over an on-rushing Almunia to give Barca a deserving lead. But you have to agree that the goal was due to an error of judgement from Almunia. That goal made it more comfortable for Barca. But that also resulted in Barca dropping the tempo a lot. In the 52nd minute Pedro Shot wide from a very promising position.In the 53rd minute it was end to end stuff. Valdes pulled off a good save to deny Bendtner header from a Clichy goal and then it was Xavi who headed his header wide from a Alves cross. In the 59th minute Ibrahimovic increased Barca lead with a sublime finish from a great ball from Xavi. The second goal actually ended Barca's dominating display. Barca looked like was looking to protect the lead and stopped employing their pressing style. But what was more confusing is the decision of Guardiola not to take Pedro off and bring in Toure so that we can comfortably defend the lead. In the 64th minute Wenger brought in Walcott who changed the entire complexion of the match. And teh effect was seen immediately. With a 4-2-3-1 formation there will be too much space left in the wings and Eboue and Walcott utilised it into perfection. In the 65th minute Theo walcott scored the first goal when he slotted past Valdes with ease receiving a good Bandtner pass. In the 84th minute the referre awarded a penalty for Arsenal which seemed too harsh and Fabregas cooly converted it to draw his team level. There were some more tremendous runs from Arsenal just held on

It was quite frustrating to see we domianting the game for 70 minutes and spoiling all the good work in the last 20 minutes. I have always criticised Guardiola's 4-2-3-1 formation, it exposes the full backs too much. Arsenal will start with Walcott and Eboue in the second leg and such a formation will destroy us. Meanwhile Arsenal players would be bouyant after drawing the game. Eventhough we have two precious away goals we have to finish the second leg early. Messi had one of those matches where he was good in patches. It was more due to the position in which he had to play. xavi looked brilliant for a person returning from injury. Busquest was brilliant throughout, eventhough I wasn't too much impressed by his and Keita's display when Arsenal upped the tempo. They were suppose to proivde the cover for the defense. Ibrahimovic had a greta game, may be his best in Europe. The first goal brough the confidence he needed and it was there to be seen in the second goal. Another player whom I have to mention is Valdes. he has been excellent in recent matches and was once again solid tonight. This result makes the second leg at Camp Nou more interesting. It will be a different arena for Arsenal players, playing infront of 97,000 people. Guardiola should learn something from Wenger in using substitutes to change teh course of the match. If he was interested in protectingb the 2-0 lead, why he didn't bring on Toure and Milito earlier. If he don't get these tactics right, we will be in for some trouble in second leg.

All About FC Barcelona is a Blog dedicated to the Most prestigous Club in the world, FC Barcelona by an ardent fan. Here I discuss about the Latest happening surrounding our Club and present my Views about the same.

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