Lionel Messi felt Barcelona were rewarded for their perseverance after his second-half brace sealed a 2-0 Champions League win at Arsenal.
Messi and his dazzling forward partners in crime Luis Suarez and Neymar were restricted for much of the first half by a committed and tenacious Arsenal, who might have led when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scuffed their clearest opportunity.
Suarez headed wastefully wide on the stroke of half-time and that opening encouraged Barcelona to dominate from early on in the second period.
Arsenal retained a menacing attacking threat but they were punished ruthlessly on the break in the 71st minute – Suarez and a rampaging Neymar combining to leave Messi with a simple finish.
The Argentina superstar drew an ill-advised lunge from Arsenal substitute Mathieu Flamini to secure a commanding lead for next month’s second leg.
Messi, who now has eight goals in five Champions League matches against Arsenal, praised Arsene Wenger’s team after the match but stated he was unsurprised to see their level drop decisively during the closing stages.
“It was a great performance from us, we got a good result against a very good team with really good players,” he said.
“The first half was very tough, they were strong, but in the second half we knew they were not going to be able to keep up the pressure.
“It’s a great result away from home and a very important result, but the second leg is still to come.”
Referring to his sometimes mixed record from the penalty spot, Messi added on TV3: “Luckily I scored my penalty. Goalkeepers study my kicks more and more.”
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