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Merchants of magic

sports Updated: Mar 09, 2011 23:21 IST
Hindustan Times
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Arsenal will be forever convinced that Robin van Persie's red card cost them the chance of beating Barcelona but the truth is that they were overwhelmed, while contributing heavily to their own downfall.

Barcelona's 3-1 win at the Nou Camp on Tuesday took them into the Champions League quarter-finals by what looks a narrow 4-3 aggregate but they were a class apart in every department, not least the one that Arsenal pride themselves on - passing and possession.

The statistics tell their own damming story as Barcelona enjoyed almost 70 percent of the possession and made 738 passes to Arsenal's 199. The Spaniards had 19 attempts on goal and substitute goalkeeper Manuel Almunia was the visitors' best player.

Arsenal did not manage a single one - unless you include Van Persie's wild post-whistle, offside lash that became the game's main talking point.

"The reality is that they did not have three passes in a row," said Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola matter-of-factly.

Yet, not that they needed to, Arsenal gave Barcelona all the help they could muster. Cesc Fabregas, desperate to play against his former, and possibly future, club having missed the quarter-final second leg last season, was clearly unfit.

Seemingly protecting the hamstring strain that had made him a doubt right up until kick off, the captain was anonymous apart from one ambitious backheel just outside the box.

Unfortunately it was outside his own box, moments before the sanctuary of halftime, and led to Lionel Messi scoring the opening goal.

"I take full blame for the result," Fabregas said on his Twitter page. "One of the worst moments of my life. I apologise."

Shakhtar beat Roma
: Shakhtar Donetsk reached the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time when they humbled AS Roma 3-0 to complete a crushing 6-2 aggregate win on Tuesday.

The win made Shakhtar the first Ukrainian side to get to the last eight since Dynamo Kiev who reached the semis in 1999.