Barcelona complete last-16 triumph over Arsenal


Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal (agg: 5-1)
Neymar, Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi were all on target as the holders reached the last eight for the ninth season running.

Overcoming a 2-0 deficit at the Camp Nou was always a daunting prospect, but Neymar’s 18th-minute opener effectively killed the tie off. Laurent Koscielny was at fault, caught in possession as he tried to dribble out of defence. Barcelona were on it in a flash. Suárez collected the ball and found Neymar with time and space to fire in.

For a spell the fight left Arsenal, who had begun brightly even if they were indebted to a fantastic stop from David Ospina to deny Lionel Messi just before the opener. Barcelona attacked with trademark alacrity, but as the half wore on and Alex Iwobi – on his first start in the competition – lively there were chances, too, at the other end.

Six minutes after the restart Elneny curled in a superb effort and the flames of hope flickered, only for Suárez to douse them with an acrobatic effort that came off his shin and flew into the top corner. Danny Welbeck hit the bar, Marc-André ter Stegen denied Alexis Sánchez and Olivier Giroud but the game was up, Messi making doubly sure. Barcelona march on.

Analysis from Graham Hunter at the Camp Nou

Key Man: Luis Suárez
There were candidates. A host of them. Bronze probably goes to David Ospina, whose save from Messi in the first half was as good as you will see this season. Perhaps a tie between Neymar and Alexis for silver. But Luis Suárez is at the top of the podium. Besides his usual tireless work there was a first-class assist for Neymar and then, as Arsenal threatened, a Herculean mid-air volley.

Tactical template
Long before the result was settled Arsène Wenger’s side provided a tactical template for how teams – at least the elite clubs remaining in this competition – could test the reigning champions. They pressed high and kept a quick tempo, hustling and hassling without the ball and always quick to pass and move with it. Given their injuries, there were positives for Arsenal – and maybe others.

Barcelona’s competitive spirit
Before last season’s final, Luis Enrique told me that he felt the most important part of what would be a trophy treble had been the competitive atmosphere every day in training. At the weekend he said, “It doesn’t matter who I turn to in my player group, whoever plays is competitive.” Exhibit 1: Jérémy Mathieu. In for the suspended Gerard Piqué, he played with calm, authority and made two goal-saving blocks.

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