Luis Enrique praised his Barcelona players as “spectacular” in their 2-0 Champions League victory at Arsenal.
An absorbing first leg of the last-16 tie remained goalless until the 71st-minute, when Lionel Messi crowned a wonderful counter-attack involving Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Messi added a second from the penalty spot seven minutes from time after being fouled by Mathieu Flamini and Luis Enrique was pleased by how his team were patient in the face of dogged Arsenal defending, while also crediting their efforts in quelling the attacking talents of Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez and substitute Theo Walcott.
“I liked everything, the whole game. Nothing has upset me,” he told a post-match news conference. “The players have been at a spectacular level individually and I think we are the deserved winners.
“The result is great but I do not think it closes the tie. There will be time to close it with our people at home.
“In first half they defended with all their players behind the ball, but we were able to tire them out so that chances came.
“We defended very well, watching Ozil and his ability between the lines. We kept close to Giroud, Alexis and Walcott when he came on.
“We could open spaces and make chances. We also did very well stopping them from countering on us.
“We were very good, pressing in every moment, helping each other out. They created very little danger.”
Luis Enrique appeared set to lose one of his key players during the match, as Sergio Busquets became troubled by a sore knee.
But the coach asked his holding midfielder to remain on the field and was delighted by his efforts.
“Busquets is a super player,” he said. “If [his knee] is only half stiff, I do not change him. For us he is a vital and a key player.
“He wanted to come off, I asked him to stay. He’s important.”
There was a moment of controversy following Messi’s second goal, when Gerard Pique hacked down Danny Welbeck to earn a booking that will rule him out of the second leg.
Pique was in discussion with Luis Enrique shortly beforehand, raising suspicions that the caution was taken tactically to free the centre-back up for Barca’s likely quarter-final tie – a theory the coach was quick to dismiss.
“It was not deliberate,” he added. “Anyone who saw the foul knows it.”
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