Belfast Telegraph

Wenger fumes at ref as Barcelona eliminate Arsenal

By Pete Jenson

Arsene Wenger was left fuming in the tunnel with match officials as Arsenal crashed out of the Champions League amid controversy at here last night.

The brilliance of Barcelona's famous three – Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez – sent the Catalans through but it was the madness of a Robin van Persie sending off that had Wenger enraged as Arsenal went down 3-1 on the night.

Van Persie picked up his second yellow card after appearing not to hear referee Massimo Busacca's whistle and shooting wide after the flag had been raised for offside. "How could I hear with 95,000 [people] screaming?" the Dutch striker said afterwards.

"It was a total joke," the Arsenal man added about the decision. "It had a big influence on the outcome of the match. I could understand it if I shot six or seven seconds after his whistle but it was one second. The referee was bad all evening."

The sending off left Barcelona with a man advantage for most of the second half and Arsenal buckled as the Spanish sidestrode into the quarter-finals.

It was the three Barça stars who stood on the Ballon d'Or podium at the start of the year who broke Arsenal hearts. Iniesta was the architect of the first goal, brilliantly dispatched by Messi.

After Sergio Busquets had put through his own goal from a Samir Nasri corner, Arsenal looked back in the game but they were undone by Xavi who put Barcelona 2-1 up on the night from another Iniesta pass.

Arsenal needed to hang on but when Pedro was brought down by Laurent Kolscielny, Manuel Almunia, who had done well after replacing Wojciech Szczesny in the first half, who had to keep them in the completion. Up stepped Messi, rolling in the penalty to give Barcelona their third goal.

They still needed Javier Mascherano to make a goal-saving challenge to stop Nicklas Bendtner scoring. Messi's two goals make him the Barcelona player with most goals in European competitions.

Belfast Telegraph


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