Mas­ter­ful Messi’s late dou­ble sinks Arse­nal

The Pak Banker - - MARKETS/SPORTS -

Barcelona's Lionel Messi broke free from Arse­nal's shack­les to score two late goals and put the Cham­pi­ons League hold­ers on the brink of the quar­ter-fi­nals with a clin­i­cal 2-0 vic­tory at the Emi­rates Sta­dium late Tues­day.

The ir­re­press­ible Ar­gen­tine, along with strike part­ners Luis Suarez and Ney­mar, had been sub­dued for most of the last 16, first-leg tie but came alive late on, clin­i­cally fin­ish­ing off a light­ning counter-at­tack and then dis­patch­ing a penalty. "They are 95 per cent through to the quar­ter-fi­nals cer­tainly," Arse­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger, whose side had de­fended solidly for 71 min­utes un­til crum­bling, told re­porters.

"It's a shame we didn't get any sat­is­fac­tion be­cause we put ev­ery­thing into it." Luis En­rique's Barca side ex­tended their un­beaten run to 33 matches and, bar­ring some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary in the re­turn at the Nou Camp next month, will take their place in the last eight for the ninth sea­son in a row. "I liked ev­ery­thing we did tonight," the Spa­niard told re­porters.

Messi has proved a thorn in Arse­nal's side on each of the last two oc­ca­sions the teams have met in the Cham­pi­ons League.

In 2010 he scored four times in the last 16 se­cond leg to send Barca through and a year later he struck twice in a 3-1 win in Spain af­ter Arse­nal had edged the first leg.

Messi, Suarez and Ney­mar had scored 91 goals in all com­pe­ti­tions this sea­son head­ing into Tues­day's game but none of the feared tri­dent man­aged an ef­fort on tar­get in the first half as Arse­nal's fans cranked up the deci­bel lev­els.

Arse­nal were pa­tient and should have gone ahead mid­way through the first half when Hec­tor Bellerin's scuffed shot fell for Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain but he scooped his ef­fort straight into the arms of keeper Marc-An­dre ter Ste­gen.

The Cata­lans be­gan to move through the gears though and ei­ther side of half­time wasted two glo­ri­ous chances.

Suarez, who has 41 goals in all com­pe­ti­tions this term, headed Dani Alves's dinked cross wide with the goal gap­ing be­fore Ney­mar was de­nied by goal­keeper Petr Cech af­ter be­ing played in by An­dres Ini­esta.

Starved of the ball for long pe­ri­ods, Arse­nal still posed a threat and Ter Ste­gen did well to keep out Olivier Giroud's close-range header from a Me­sut Ozil cross.

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