Arsene Wenger felt Luis Suarez’s spectacular volley for Barcelona at Camp Nou on Wednesday prevented Arsenal from causing a Champions League sensation of their own.
Nursing a 2-0 deficit from the opening leg at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal were level on the night when Mohamed Elneny’s first goal for the club cancelled out Neymar’s opener six minutes after half-time.
But Suarez stole the show with an improbably acrobatic finish before Lionel Messi applied some trademark gloss to a 5-1 aggregate scoreline with a late chipped third.
Arsenal were causing their illustrious hosts plenty of problems immediately before Suarez’s intervention, at which point Wenger knew the tie had got away from his team.
“I think the performance was first of all good,” he told BT Sport. “It was a great game between two good teams.
“We went out, that is a regret of course, but I must say, with their exceptional quality up front, they can take advantage of any little mistake
“It was a big turning point at 1-1. Had we scored the second goal it could have caused a sensation tonight
“Any one of their front three can score at any time. Over the two games, if you look at the danger situations we have created, we have created many.
“We produced a quality performance against maybe the best team in the Europe at the moment, well done to them.”
Speaking afterwards at his post-match news conference, Wenger added: “I felt from the bench at 1-1 they were wobbling a little bit, feeling insecure, but we could not take our chance to score a second goal.”
Messi’s goal snatched him another piece of Champions League history, with the mercurial Argentinian’s nine against Arsenal the tournament’s best return versus a single opponent.
For Wenger, who must now turn his attentions back towards an 11-point deficit to Leicester City in the Premier League title race, seeing Messi torment his team has not robbed him of admiration for the masterful forward.
“You must in our sport admire art,” he added. “They have two or three players who transform normal life into art.
“I respect that. It is pleasure as well, of course for me it is suffering, but it is exceptional what [Messi] does.”