Gunners boom late to hold Barcelona

Football: Champions League: Milito strikes as Inter take 1-0 lead against CSKA

Gunners boom late to hold Barcelona

Barcelona's French striker Thierry Henry (C) vies with Arsenal's Ivory Coast defender Emmanuel Eboue (L) and French midfielder Abou Diaby (R) during their UEFA Champions League quarter-final 1st leg football match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, North London, England. AFP

That Arsene Wenger's side still have a shot at the semifinals of the Champions League despite being ripped to shreds for 60 minutes on home turf during a rip-roaring quarterfinal, first leg owed much to luck and wasteful Barca finishing –– but above all, old fashioned guts.

If it had been a boxing match, Arsenal would have been stopped long before the end of the first round as unanswered blows rained down on them.

With Argentine magician Lionel Messi leading Arsenal a merry dance, Barcelona hit Arsenal from every angle and should have been out of sight long before the hosts recovered their senses in the final 20 minutes.

Theo Walcott, Wenger's final throw of the dice on a night when most of his gambles blew up in his face, came off the bench to spark a recovery with a goal 20 minutes from time before captain Cesc Fabregas equalised with an 85th-minute penalty.

Even Wenger, never overly generous when it comes to praising opponents, was blown away by the quality of play produced by European champions Barcelona for whom Zlatan Ibrahimovic's two second-half goals was meagre reward for a dazzling display of intricate, attacking soccer.

Wenger stood powerless as Arsenal chased shadows but he praised his side's durability as they picked themselves off the floor and he believes the second leg in the Nou Camp could produce one of the greatest feats of his career.

Arsenal will be without Fabregas for the second leg after he was booked for a foul on Sergio Busquets that means he is suspended for the Nou Camp clash although after leaving the ground on crutches his season looks in jeopardy anyway.
They also lost William Gallas to a calf injury, while Russian playmaker Andrei Arshavin limped off in the first half. 

Messi, the world's best player, signalled his intent with a surging run deep into Arsenal territory in the opening minute, signalling a sustained spell of pressure that produced nine Barca goal attempts in the opening fifteen  minutes.

Ibrahimovic somehow poked a point-blank effort over the bar from a cross by Daniel Alves and Almunia then saved a Messi blast with his legs before a crazy passage of play saw Messi and Ibrahimovic both denied by the keeper.

Arsenal reached the interval level but there was no respite and Barcelona went ahead within 30 seconds of the restart when Gerard Pique played in Ibrahimovic who dinked a lob over Almunia who was near the edge of his box.

Thirteen minutes later Arsenal looked dead and buried when Xavi caught their defence square and Ibrahimovic had time and space to pick his spot, blasting a right-foot shot past Almunia.

Arsene Wenger threw on Walcott, who breathed some fire into Arsenal with his pace unsettling the previously serene visitors.

Nicklas Bendtner found Walcott with a clever pass and the winger beat Valdes with a firm drive before Fabregas kept his nerve late on to convert a penalty after Barca's captain Carles Puyol was adjudged to have fouled him in the box.

Puyol's misfortune was compounded when he was red-carded meaning Barca will be without both their regular centre backs next week after Gerard Pique was booked.

Inter win
Wasteful Inter Milan spurned a host of chances and needed a second-half strike from Argentine forward Diego Milito to beat CSKA Moscow 1-0 in their quarterfinal, first leg clash.

Milito rifled in a right-footed shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box in the 65th minute at the San Siro after a strong run by Wesley   Sneijder.

CSKA closed down Inter well in the first half, but showed little ambition as the Italian champions increased the tempo after the break.

The hosts failed to put away a series of chances either side of Milito's goal, with CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeyev making some fine saves. Inter striker Goran Pandev also had an effort cleared off the line.

Krasic and Aldonin will miss next week's return leg after being booked.
Reuters

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