Arsenal fight back keeps European dream alive

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Arsenal 2 Barcelona 2

Cesc Fabregas kept Arsenal's European dream alive after the Gunners came from 2-0 down to draw the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona at Emirates Stadium.

The Spaniards had lived up to their billing as favourites following a blistering start and a second-half double from Zlatan Ibrahimovic looked to have all but killed off the tie.

However, Theo Walcott came off the bench to pull a goal back before Fabregas - who will miss the second leg at his old club after being booked - smashed in a late penalty after Carles Puyol was sent off for fouling the midfielder in the box.

While Barcelona will still be favourites to progress, Arsene Wenger's young side again showed great character and could yet prove their doubters wrong once more with a similarly courageous display in the Nou Camp.

Arsenal were on the backfoot straight away in a frenetic opening, with Thomas Vermaelen cutting out a low ball into the six-yard box.

Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia - who had been at fault for Birmingham's stoppage-time equaliser on Saturday - was suddenly in the thick of the action as the Spaniard pulled off fine saves to deny Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi.

The hosts just could not get hold of the ball - a situation so alien here at Emirates Stadium.

Almunia was again called into action when he blocked Messi's drive following another mesmerising run by the Argentina international as the Gunners were simply outplayed at their own game, the home fans subdued as Wenger paced his technical area.

Then, the Arsenal keeper first denied Ibrahimovic from point-blank range and then spread himself in front of Xavi to save the follow-up before Messi's effort was blocked on the line by Alex Song, and eventually the ball hacked clear.

With quarter-of-an-hour gone, it continued to be relentless, one-way traffic from the Spaniards.

When Arsenal finally got some possession, Andrey Arshavin swung over a dangerous cross from the right before Samir Nasri cut inside from the left and drilled an angled shot across the face of goal and wide of the far post.

On 27 minutes, Arsenal were forced into a change when Arshavin was replaced by Emmanuel Eboue on 27 minutes, as the Russian limped off.

Barcelona continued to look the more threatening as Ibrahimovic again shot over.

Nicklas Bendtner - who smashed a hat-trick against Porto to seal a place in the quarter-finals - was picked out by Nasri's left-wing cross. But the Dane could only fire his close-range effort against keeper Victor Valdes and the rebound onto the post. However, the assistant had already correctly flagged for offside.

Three minutes before the break, defender William Gallas - just back from eight games out - had to be carried off after appearing to aggravate his calf problem. Song dropped back into the centre of defence, with Denilson coming into midfield.

Just before the break, Fabregas was penalised for a foul on Busquets, with Swiss referee Massimo Busacca showing a yellow card - which rules the Spaniard out of next week's return to his old club.

Then, disaster struck for Arsenal 30 seconds after the restart.

A long ball from inside the Barcelona half by Gerard Pique split the centre-backs, and Ibrahimovic raced clear down the right channel.

Almunia decided to come out, which invited the Swede to simply lob his shot up and over the keeper into the far corner.

The Gunners looked for a quick response when Fabregas sprinted down the right before releasing Gael Clichy on the overlap.

His cross was met by Bendtner, but the Dane could only power a header straight at Valdes.

It was, though, seemingly game over and indeed the end of the Gunners' European dream when, on 59 minutes, Ibrahimovic beat the offside trap as he latched onto Xavi's fine throughball, before drilling his shot past Almunia.

With 24 minutes left, Wenger made his final throw of the dice as he sent on Walcott for Bacary Sagna.

It proved an inspired move as the winger, under the watchful gaze of England manager Fabio Capello, latched onto Bendtner's pass on the right side of the box, before slipping the ball under Valdes.

With seven minutes left, the match turned when Barcelona captain Puyol barged into Fabregas as he tried to connect with a knockdown from Bendtner.

The referee pointed to the spot, before showing a red card. Fabregas lashed in the spot-kick to give his side hope at the Nou Camp.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash