Thursday, June 8, 2023

Sending-off was a terrible decision but Barcelona totally out class Arsenal

Graham Fisher in Editorial, UEFA Champions League 8 Mar 2011


No mind games

The game was beautifully poised with Arsenal holding a 2-1 lead from the first leg a couple of weeks ago at the Emirates. Barcelona were still red hot favourites for this game and the Champions League title, but Arsenal went into the game with confidence, unbeaten in eleven league games.


The build up was mainly around whether Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas would start for Arsenal after recovering from injury and whether Carles Puyol would be fit for Barcelona, crucial as his defensive partner Gerard Pique was suspended.

Both managers said that they were not playing ‘mind games’ in the days leading to the game, but Wenger’s refusal to be drawn on the fitness of his key players and Guardiola singing the praises of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshire only to ruin it by saying he had lots of players like him in Barcelona reserves, certainly sounded a bit like mind games to me!


And so to the action. There was no surprise as Arsenal fielded both Fabregas and van Persie, whilst Puyol didn’t make it for Barcelona and Busquets partnered Abidal in the centre of their defence.

What followed, in the first half was Barcelona making Arsenal chase the ball for forty-five minutes. They created few chances, but gave Arsenal a footballing lesson and were incredibly unlucky to be denied an absolute stonewall penalty when Messi was tripped in the area directly in front of what turned out to be the hapless referee.


It was amazing to watch the team who are possibly going to win the Premier League, the team who dominate possession in nearly all of their games and the team who arguably play the best football in England get so completely and utterly out played.

Just as it looked as though Arsenal were going to somehow make it to half-time at 0-0, Cesc Fabregas, who can only have been about 50% fit, decided that a back heel only twenty yards from his own goal was a good idea. There was still alot to do but brilliance from Iniesta was followed by even more brilliance from Lionel Messi and Barcelona were in charge at 1-0 going in to the break.


In the second half Arsenal fared little better but on a rare attack they forced a corner. Nasri swung the ball in and Busquets inexplicably headed into his own goal to give Arsenal an unexpected and undeserved equaliser that put them ahead in the tie.

Barcelona continued to dominate possession and it seemed only a matter of time before they took control. A moment of refereeing madness meant that the probable became the inevitable. Van Persie, who had already been rightly yellow carded, was caught offside and a fraction of a second after the whistle went, fired a shot wide of the goal.


It is doubtful whether he heard the whistle and even if he did, it would have been difficult to pull out of the shot. In terms of wasting time, with the multi-ball system, it probably used up about five seconds. The referee decided that in a game of this importance and for an offense so trivial, a second yellow card followed by the red was the right course of action. This was a truly abysmal decision.

With only ten men and no striker, there was no chance of holding out for a draw for Arsenal. They defended manfully but when a typically brilliant move involving Iniesta and Villa put in Xavi, he made no mistake in beating the excellent Almunia and bringing the tie level.


When the already booked Koscielny conceded a penalty, an offense which, unlike having a shot, was not deemed to be a yellow card, Messi slotted the ball home and the game was over.

Arsenal had one chance when Wilshire did well to put in Bendtner, but the substitute’s first touch got away from him and the possibility of an unlikely win on away goals disappeared with it.


The sending-off was a pivotal moment in the game and was a terrible decision, but don’t let anyone tell you it was the reason Barcelona beat Arsenal. The reason was simply that Barcelona were in a different league and on a different planet to Arsenal.

The statistics from the game tell you all you need to know. Barcelona had nearly 70% of the possession and that was the same when the numbers were even. Barcelona had nineteen attempts on goal, thirteen of them on target, whilst Arsenal did not manage one single attempt, not even in the hour or so they had eleven men.


It was a good game to watch, but it was totally one-sided. I’ve no doubt Arsenal will point to the sending off as being crucial but whilst I have some sympathy, I feel sure the same result would have happened anyway. It would have been a travesty if Arsenal had gone through.

It was a brave effort by the Londoners, but they were absolutely out-classed by the vastly better Catalan side.


Graham Fisher



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12 years ago

Disagree with you. Barca was on another level BUT DEFINITELY NOT UNBEATABLE. Arsenal DIT IT in London. At 1-1 anything can happen. Do you understand stategies and tactics at all? Did you see barca palyers’ despearate faces at the Emirates when Arsenal prressured them late in the match?? Arsenal beat them late in the 2nd half at the Emirates, so that could have been their strategy to absorb barca’s attack and hit them late! So, with that sending off – which is totally unnecesssary, it definitely harder for Arsenal.

12 years ago

Van Persie was very far from goal with no defender near him. If he didn’t hear the whistle, the normal thing to do is to dribble closer to goal before firing a shot. His immediate shot from nowhere shows he actually heard the whistle.

12 years ago

Even if RVP did hear the whistle, it should never be a second yellow card, especially in such a big game.

Though 10 men or 11, Arsenal were chasing shadows the entire match and never looked like winning the tie. Nobody adopts the strategy of being completely overpowered for the most part of the match then magically picking yourselves up to try and scrape a winner. Do you actually thing that was their gameplan mazxiz? Sounds like you’ve been playing too much Football Manager to me.

12 years ago

Barcelona is enjoying their moment time in the football world. Real Madrib, Liverpool, AC Milan and others were there before but today were are they. It cannot last forever. Barcelona is a fantastic football club with complete 11 players on Field. In Red card to Van Persie, it does not worth it, most players does that often and they are not punished for. The only fire power Arsenal have in the game is Van Persie and removing him with less crime is a total wickedness to the Arsenal people. Ball Possession belong to Barcelona, that is their tradition. Watch them… Read more »

The Truth
The Truth
12 years ago

Shut up and concentrate on other leagues and cups.
Barcelona won, thats it. We are playing a game that only the scoreboard matters. Nothing in 6 years thats just terriable. HAHAHAHA. VISCA BARCA!

Pule Tang
12 years ago

The ref spoiled the game for the entire world..hoe can you give a player a yellow card with the fans making so much noise????c’mon!..uefa should look into thid ASAP and have the ref suspended or somthing..these kind of errors mess up the beautifull game

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