HOPES of Champions League glory were crushed for the Gunners as, despite a solid performance, they slid to defeat at the hands of an impervious Barcelona side and the evergreen Lionel Messi who scored two goals in the last 20 minutes.
The first-leg home defeat, with the visiting side scoring two crucial away goals, means Arsene Wenger’s men face an enormous uphill struggle if they are to reach the quarter-finals. It all came crashing to an end when late substitute Mathieu Flamini crashed into the talismanic Argentine in the 83rd minute giving away a penalty with only one likely outcome.
The Frenchman’s disastrous cameo appearance belied a strong overall performance from the North London club, who are also in fighting contention for their first Premier League honours in more than a decade. For significant chunks of match-time they held their own and more against the Catalan giants but the end product remained elusive and the Emirates was once again a graveyard for the also-rans.
In the night’s other match, Bayern Munich secured a valuable 2-2 draw against Juventus in the San Siro but could have made the second leg redundant had they managed to hold their two goal lead. The Italians launched a spirited fight-back to keep in them in contention in the return leg but the bookies will keep Bayern as solid favourites to progress.