Gunners fire at home
Arsenal and Barcelona each got a taste of their own medicine on Wednesday but it was the Londoners who recovered from what looked a terminal condition to register a remarkable 2-1 comeback win in the Champions League last-16 first leg.sports Updated: Feb 18, 2011 00:17 IST
Arsenal and Barcelona each got a taste of their own medicine on Wednesday but it was the Londoners who recovered from what looked a terminal condition to register a remarkable 2-1 comeback win in the Champions League last-16 first leg.
The obituaries had been written all around the Emirates Press box as Barcelona handed the hosts, the best passing team in England, a lesson in how it really should be done.
Statistics in football can be misleading, as Wednesday's result clearly showed, but Barcelona's total of 629 passes was more than double their opponents, with Xavi stroking 109 on his own at an 88 percent completion rate.
Amid the myriad quick-fire exchanges there were deadly through balls, one of which by Lionel Messi sent David Villa through for the opening goal after 26 minutes.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had been expecting just that pattern in the last-16 first-leg match.
Wenger sent on Andrei Arshavin for Alex Song after 68 minutes and Nicklas Bendtner for Theo Walcott but the game still looked to be heading only one way.
Robin van Persie changed everything, however, when, from a position of little obvious danger, he lashed in the 78th-minute equaliser through the tiniest gap at Victor Valdes's near-post.
Barcelona, unfazed, continued to press but five minutes later Arsenal broke from their own box. A terrific ball by Fabregas sent Nasri free down the right and Arshavin arrived to sweep in his pull-back and turn the game on its head. "I'm very proud for Arsenal tonight because everybody urged us to play differently to our nature," Wenger said. "We can be proud of the result but more than pride it can strengthen our belief."
Roma in dire straits
Rome: Roma coach Claudio Ranieri was left to fight off speculation his days at the club are numbered after an embarrassing 3-2 home defeat by Champions League knockout round debutants Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.
Roma took the lead in the 28th minute when midfielder Simone Perrotta headed in a cross from Rodrigo Taddei off Razvan Rat, but fans had little time to savour the goal as Shakhtar equalised a minute later through Jadson's fortunate deflection.
The Ukrainians, who looked fresh despite not having played in more than two months, then seized control of the match with a lovely curling shot from just outside the area by Douglas Costa on 36 minutes. Luiz Adriano slotted in the visitors' third before halftime. Jeremy Menez reduced the gap in 61st minute but it wasnzt enough.
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu paid tribute to Roma, but added that their weakness lay in inconsistency.
"Roma are unpredictable, they can play several great games in a row and they can lose," he said.