Shakhtar join Spanish giants in quarterfinals
LONDON (AP) ― Barcelona overwhelmed Arsenal with a 3-1 victory following Lionel Messi’s double and Shakhtar Donetsk reached the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time after beating AS Roma 3-0 on Tuesday.
While Barcelona outclassed Arsenal for the second successive season, the match turned in the Spanish champions’ favor in a three-minute spell at the start of the second half.
Barcelona defender Sergio Busquets’ own goal canceled out Messi’s first-half strike to put the Gunners back in control after having won 2-1 in the first leg.
But Arsenal striker Robin van Persie was sent off in the 56th after being shown a second yellow card by referee Massimo Busacca for shooting ― the only visiting player to do so all night ― having already been given offside.
“It’s a total joke,” Van Persie said. “I tried to explain there were 95,000 people jumping up, how can I hear the whistle? He’s been bad all evening, whistling against us. I don’t know why he’s here tonight.
“We feel betrayed a bit, when it was 1-1 it was all to play for, and in my opinion this referee killed the game.”
Xavi Hernandez made it 2-1 in the 69th minute after completing a flowing Barcelona move, before Messi converted a 71st-minute penalty to clinch the 4-3 aggregate win.
Shakhtar’s victory was more emphatic, the Ukrainian champions advancing 6-2 on aggregate after goals from Tomas Huebschmann, Willian and Eduardo da Silva.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (top) celebrates his goal against Arsenal. (AFP-Yonhap News)
While Barcelona’s victory margin was slender, the statistics suggested otherwise. Pep Guardiola’s side had 19 shots to Arsenal’s none and outpassed the visitors 738-199.
“Arsenal defended very, very well but they didn’t make more than three passes (in succession),” Guardiola said. “We created a lot of chances, we played a perfect game. We’re so, so happy about our performance. Over the two legs, we were better than them.”
Arsenal surrendered first-leg advantage from Emirates Stadium in first-half stoppage time after former Barcelona youth player Cesc Fabregas had conceded possession.
An attempted back heel when trying to clear not far from his own box only succeeded in allowing Andres Iniesta to slip a pas through to Messi, who flicked the ball over the onrushing Manuel Almunia and smashed it into the net.
Almunia was called into the Arsenal goal in the 19th minute after Wojciech Szczesny was forced off with a dislocated finger.
But Arsenal was back in control on away goals when Busquets headed into his own net from Samir Nasri’s corner in the 53rd.
No sooner had Arsenal turned the tide than Van Persie was sent off.
“I just spoke to UEFA people and they are shocked as well,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “You promise a fantastic football match, but what for? How he did it, frankly it’s embarrassing for the game.”
Barcelona pulled level when Iniesta powered through the defense before finding David Villa, who sent Xavi through to knock the ball past Almunia.
And there was no way back when Messi beat a static Almunia two minutes later from the penalty spot after Laurent Koscielny had tripped Pedro Rodriguez.
“We lost against a good team,” Wenger said. “There are regrets when you see how we went out. The way we did, it is very difficult to accept.”
There was also a sending off in Ukraine. Roma defender Philippe Mexes was dismissed in the 41st after being shown two yellow cards for fouls on Luiz Adriano.
But Huebschmann had already put Shakhtar ahead on a freezing evening in the 18th, flicking the ball into the net from Willian’s cross to build on his team’s 3-2 lead from the first leg in Italy. Willian curled in a second goal in the 58th and Eduardo intercepted a poor back-pass and slid the ball into the net in the 87th to round off an impressive victory for Shakhtar, which hasn’t lost at home for more than two years.