Messi, Xavi steer Barcelona into Champions League quarters

Messi, Xavi steer Barcelona into Champions League quarters

FIFA World Player Lionel Messi scored twice for Barca, veteran playmaker Xavi got the other goal. Barca's Sergio Busquets gave Arsenal brief hope with a luckless own goal.
Barca went into the quarters on a 4-3 aggregate, after losing 2-1 in the first leg in London.

Arsenal left the Camp Nou complaining about Italian referee Massimo Busacca, who harshly sent off Robin Van Persie and gave Barca a debatable penalty, from which Messi scored the winning goal.

Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia said, "There were a couple of important decisions which went against us tonight. We are annoyed because these decisions changed the game.

Barca defender Eric Abidal, for his part said: "It was a very difficult game for us, especially after they scored. But we played well and showed our character.

"It was a little easier for us when they were down to 10 men. But even so, it was still very hard."

When asked which team he would prefer to face in the quarter-finals, Abidal opted for Lyon, his hometown club.

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger started with a defensive lineup, keeping Nicklas Bendtner and Andrei Arshavin on the bench, which left Van Persie completely alone upfield.

Barca struggled to beak down the packed Arsenal defence in the first half, and the visitors almost got to half-time at 0-0. However, they were were hit by a moment of magic from Messi three minutes into stoppage time.

Andres Iniesta fed Messi going into the penalty area and the impish Argentine deceived goalkeeper Manuel Almunia with two classy touches before volleying in the first goal.

Almunia had come on to replace young Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny, who suffered an early finger injury saving a long-range free-kick from Dani Alves.

But disaster struck for Barca eight minutes into the second half, when Busquets - who saw little of the ball because of the presence of Adriano and Abou Diaby - made it 1-1 by heading into his own goal.

Three minutes later Van Persie, who passed a late fitness test, earned himself a needless second yellow card for kicking the ball away after having being ruled offside.

Barca took advantage of having an extra man to raise their possession to almost 70 percent. In the 69th minute Xavi made it 2-1 with a calm finish, after a breath-taking move through the middle between Iniesta and David Villa.

And just two minutes later, with Arsenal against the ropes, Xavi set up Pedro and the little winger was pulled down by Laurent Koscielny for a disputed penalty.

Messi coolly sent Almunia the wrong way to make it 3-1 from the penalty spot.

Ibrahim Affelay and Alves should have put Arsenal out of their misery with a fourth goal but lacked Messi's coolness in front of goal.

At the other end, a bad mistake by Adriano almost led to Bendtner scoring what would have been a miraculous second away goal for Arsenal.