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Barcelona rolls past Arsenal, Shakhtar demolishes Roma in Champions League

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By JOHN BOSCHINI

Lionel Messi played spoiler for Arsenal yet again with a brace, but it was a controversial red card to Arsenal's Robin van Persie that will grab much of the post-match spotlight as Barcelona defeated Arsenal 3-1 to  advance to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, 4-3, on aggregate.

Arsenal, which arrived at the Camp Nou clinging to a 2-1 lead, spent most of the first half absorbing Barcelona's pressure. An injury to goalkeeper Wojciech Szczensy in the first half saw the addition of much-maligned goalkeeper Manuel Almunia into the match. Barcelona continued to pile on the pressure and the breakthrough finally came in first-half stoppage time when Andres Iniesta pounced on an ill-advised back-heel from Cesc Fabregas and played Messi through on goal. The Argentine made no mistake from eight yards out and Barcelona went into the break up 1-0.

With their lead gone, the Gunners was forced to bring some offensive pressure. They were rewarded eight minutes after the restart when Sergio Busquets, who was filling it at center-back for the injured Carles Puyol, headed a Samir Nasri corner into his own net.

The game took a controversial turn just three minutes later when van Persie, who had already been booked for a petulant foul on Daniel Alves in the first half, was shown a second yellow for playing on after the whistle had gone for offsides. With a man-advantage, Barcelona rarely turned the ball over to Arsenal and a second goal seemed inevitable.

The equalizer came with 20 minutes left when some intricate, one-touch passing put Xavi in on goal. The mid-fielder's shot deflected off an Arsenal defender and scooted past Almunia. If the score had remained 2-1 extra time would have ensued but Barcelona put the game out of reach just three minutes after the equalizer when Laurent Koscielny brought Pedro down inside the box. Messi completed his brace with a cool finish on the ensuing penalty kick and Arsenal couldn't find a way back into the game in the final minutes. The game ended with Barcelona completing 738 passes to Arsenal's 199.

In Ukraine, Shakhtar Donetsk made easy work of a reeling AS Roma side to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in its history with a 3-0 victory (6-2 on aggregate).

Tomas Huebshmann gave the hosts an early lead by directing Willian's cross home in the 18th minute. Roma should have gotten itself back in the match just before the half-hour mark but Marco Borriello couldn't convert a penalty kick.

The Italians' fate was all but sealed when Philippe Mexes was shown a second yellow card just before halftime and goals from Willian and Eduardo turned the match into a rout. Despite making its first trip to the quarterfinals, Shakhtar has not lost at home in nearly two years and has made a grand statement with a thrashing of an Italian giant.

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What did you think of today's games? Convinced Barcelona is the favorite to win the Champions League? Should Arsenal feel cheated by the referee? Would you want your team to face Shakhtar in the next round?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. Since when do we crown champions based on possession?? People need to realize that u don’t need to dominate possession every game to get a result. Sure Barca was dominating possession but they will do that against every team. Teams are now just letting them dink and dunk and then pull up the back four when they try and thread the needle. Arsenal with 10 men had no real chance to alleviate the pressure. The Red Card was shameful. Watch the replay and you’ll puke. If the match stayed 11v11 Arsenal moves on.

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  2. The possesion was already completely lopsided before the red card. This was hardly one of the great champions league games in recent history. Maybe on paper. But this game was very one-sided from the beginning

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  3. How many times does a team out-shoot another, or out-possesion another. It doesn’t always matter. This game had Arsenal with the incoming advantage. Arsenal is an attacking team, but today it did not need to be. The moment they went down to 10 men, the possesion became completely lobsided. Anyone on this thread that can put down Arsenal, or not realize that the game changed on the red card is not thinking rationally. Where some teams pull into a shell down a man. Arsenal plays an attack to keep possesion as their defense. Take a man away (Especially their lone striker) against a team like Barcelona and they have no chance. That ref. needs to be repramanded. That was a call for a personal act, not a physical play. He new that VP had a yellow. His call was going to change one of the great Champions League games in recent history. Did it? Well, we know what happened.

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  4. Im a neutral n i dnt see any way that arsenal cld hv gone thrgh even with rvp on d field. Yes it ws a floppy decision but it hardly changed d outcome of d game. Talking abt ref on barca side i thnk there were lot more for barca, like fab for instead. Why barca needs him so badly i dnt understand. Any way what rvp cld hv done for fabs mistake or kosc s tripping of pedro. Dnt tell me ball wl be on barca s half if rvp was thr…

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  5. This thread should be closed. There are way too many “my butt hurts, mommy” comments on here from the Arse’n’All crowd

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  6. I think this is the third season in a row where a lot of folks have watched arsenal play the bridesmaid in a lot of major matches and were expecting “the watershed” to have been reached by now. The fact that in that time the issue of an undisputed starting GK and defensive veteran at CB has not been adequately addressed makes it all the more frustrating, when in many ways that seems like an easy fix, especially for a club with pockets as deep as Arsenal. I have a lot of respect for AW and believe that he’s got it right in many ways, but I do think that the solutions are closer at hand than he sometimes realizes. I mean, he’s a Hugo Lloris or Steve Mandanda away from solving the GK dilemma, and he’s a Silva or Chiellini from resolving the CB issue, especially once Vermaalen comes back and could pair up with one of those guys. There is no one in the development pipeline with that kind of promise

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