Messi shoots down Gunners
Barcelona's strike force proved too hot for Arsenal to handle as Lionel Messi scored both goals for the titleholders in a convincing 2-0 victory in the last 16 of the Champions League yesterday.
Messi provided a clinical finish to a breakaway move that featured strike partners Luis Suarez and Neymar in the 71st minute, and then scored an 83rd minute penalty to seal a tense first-leg match at Emirates Stadium.
The five-time world player of the year decided a game that Barcelona had dominated, even without taking all the chances that came the way of their prolific forward line.
Arsenal created opportunities in both halves, but was mainly engaged in a damage limitation exercise against a side that the club's own manager Arsene Wenger described before the game as "super favourites."
It's a tag that Barcelona certainly have now.
With two away goals and home advantage to come, Barcelona will be confident of reaching the quarterfinals for the ninth consecutive season after the second leg on March 16 at the Nou Camp.
"I liked everything about Barcelona today, everything from the very beginning," the Catalan club's coach Luis Enrique said.
"My players individually performed perfectly and I think we are deserved winners of this game. The score is very good, but nothing is decided yet."
Barcelona had beaten Arsenal in both their previous meetings in the knockout stages, in 2010 and 2011, along with the 2006 final in Paris. Their second-half performance yesterday, which combined possession with dangerous counterattacks, was a potent reminder of that track record - and another source of frustration for Wenger.