Van Persie red card hit us very badly, says Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger thought he might have found a way to stop Pep Guardiola's side but two goals from Lionel Messi and one from Xavi, amid a performance of breathtaking skill on Tuesday, took the Catalans through 4-3 on aggregate.

Wenger's high-risk game-plan rested on soaking up the almost constant pressure, waiting for Barcelona to tire and trying to exploit the space that inevitably begins to open up.  The approach paid off for the London club in last month's first leg, when Andrei Arshavin scored a superb breakaway goal from a Theo Walcott centre to give Arsenal a 2-1 comeback win, and Barca do look vulnerable against swift counterattacks.

However, the dismissal of striker Robin van Persie early in the second half of the return at the Nou Camp dealt a blow to Arsenal's hopes of eliminating the favourites.  Wenger said it had changed the complexion of the game at a time his side were coming back into contention.

"Barcelona played, a little bit, a poker game by giving absolutely everything in the first half," he told a post-match news conference. "I felt Barcelona gave a lot in the first half where we were completely dominated, I agree with that.

"But in the second half, you felt there was more space and, I knew, like in the first game, we would come back into it. I am convinced we would have won this game (without the red card)."  Whether Wenger's plan would have worked without the sending-off will never be known and it may be optimistic to think Arsenal could have withstood Barca's almost complete domination even with 11 players on the pitch.

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