Advantage Arsenal, Shakhtar in Champions League

Advantage Arsenal, Shakhtar in Champions League

Arsenal, bidding to avenge their 6-3 aggregate loss to Barca in last season's quarter-finals, fell behind to a David Villa goal mid-way through the first half at the Emirates yesterday.

They appeared destined for defeat until Robin van Persie drew them level in the 78th minute and five minutes later substitute Andrey Arshavin rolled in the winner to put them in the driving seat ahead of the March 8 return leg. "It is one of the special nights," said Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger.

"The game promised a lot and it didn't disappoint. "We will go to Camp Nou now and play our game again because we cannot go there and defend. We will go and give our best."

Wenger's captain, Cesc Fabregas, warned that there was still work to do. "They are the best side in football's history in my opinion," said the one-time Barcelona trainee of his former club. "That is one game and this is half-time. It is a nice victory but that's all. If we show it here and not at Camp Nou, it is nothing for us."

Arsenal were completely over-run in the first 20 minutes of last season's quarter-final first leg, but they threatened first this time around when van Persie's half-volley was well saved by Victor Valdes.

The visitors quickly assumed the upper hand, though, and on 26 minutes Villa put them ahead. Having spurned a fine opportunity moments earlier, Lionel Messi reprieved himself with a neat through-ball for Villa, who raced through before posting the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Messi had a close-range header ruled out for a contentious offside and Arsenal were perhaps fortunate to reach the half-time break only a goal behind.

The hosts attacked with purpose at the start of the second period but it was Barca who menaced first, with Messi finding the side-netting after Arsenal's defence had been caught napping.

It was from an error in the Catalan rearguard, however, that Arsenal drew level. There appeared little danger as van Persie latched onto Gael Clichy's cute dinked pass down the inside-left channel, but the Dutchman cracked in a half-volley that caught Valdes by surprise to sneak inside the near post. Moments later the Gunners were ahead, Samir Nasri collecting Fabregas's clever pass on the right and calmly picking out Arshavin, who crisply tucked the ball into the bottom-right corner with a first-time shot.
"It's a pity but we knew Arsenal are a very good team and dangerous on the counter-attack," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

"However, I think we more or less controlled the game and we just need to create the chances we did tonight at Camp Nou and then take them." At the Stadio Olimpico, a slow-burning first half sparked into life with four goals in the space of just 17 minutes.

Simone Perrotta headed home from Rodrigo Taddei's cross to put Roma ahead in the 28th minute but a deflected shot from Jadson brought Shakhtar level within a minute.
Brazilian winger Douglas Costa curled in from the edge of the box in the 36th minute to give the visitors the lead before Luiz Adriano made it 3-1 by side-footing home from Costa's pass four minutes before half-time.

France international Jeremy Menez roused hopes of a home comeback when he bent a glorious strike into the top corner on the hour but the Ukrainians held on to secure victory on their first ever last-16 appearance in the competition. "In the second half Roma played really well, so you can't blame them for anything," said Shakhtar's Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu.

"We also played a great match. We had five players aged 20 to 21. I knew we'd have to put Roma under pressure and we managed that."

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