Recap: Barcelona condemned Arsenal to a Round of 16 exit from the Champions League for the sixth successive season, after a 3-1 win at the Camp Nou took the holders into the quarterfinals with a 5-1 aggregate triumph. Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi each found the net to take their combined tally to the season to a staggering 106 and reinforce the gulf between Barcelona and Arsenal that only seems to have grown since their last meeting in 2011.
Arsenal were faced with having to make history in chasing a first ever win at the Camp Nou and overcoming a first-leg home loss for the first time in European competition. And they were their own worst enemy, with Laurent Koscielny’s cheap concession of the ball allowing Barcelona to get the crucial first goal of the night through Neymar’s composed 18th minute finish.
Capitalizing on some complacency from their hosts, Arsenal kept their heads up and leveled the score on the night six minutes into the second half when Mohamed Elneny grabbed a first goal for the club with a fine strike from the edge of the box. But an unfamiliar Arsenal attack, featuring Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck, couldn’t capitalize on several other opportunities before Barcelona made their quality tell once more.
First Suarez crashed a superb volley into the top corner of the net, before Messi had the final world with a delightful scooped finish. Arsenal were no match, but in truth it’s difficult to see any team denying Barcelona the honor of becoming the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles.
FULLTIME! Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal (5-1 Agg.)
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg in London, it was always going to be a massive ask for Arsenal to turn the tie around. And so it proved. All three of Barcelona’s devastating forward trio got on the scoresheet, with Neymar getting the early strike to increase Barcelona’s control yet further. Mohamed Elneny leveled on the night with a superb strike early in the second half, but Barcelona had just too much quality and ran away with the tie thanks to wondrous strikes from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. Arsenal were beaten by much the better team, but will rue Laurent Koscielny’s error for the first goal and a series of missed chances over the 90 minutes that means for the sixth successive season they have exited the Champions League at the Round of 16 stage. Barcelona move onto the quarterfinals and will take some stopping.
GOAL! Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal (Messi, 88)
Goal number 499 for Lionel Messi, taking the ball past the prone Laurent Koscielny and brilliantly flicking the ball up past Ospina and into the net. Quite brilliant again from Barcelona and Messi. Now 5-1 to Barcelona on aggregate.
87 mins: Walcott’s pace gets him in behind the Barcelona defense, but his angle to goal was always tight and Ter Stegen came out to make it yet tighter and block a rather tame shot.
84 mins: Just merely a case of playing out the final few minutes at the Camp Nou. Arsenal are applying little pressure, allowing Barcelona to just easily keep possession.
77 mins: Walcott has an early opportunity after coming on, but the substitute showed no conviction his shot from 15 yards and saw it comfortably blocked. Barcelona now make their second substitutions, with former Atletico Madrid man Arda Turan replacing Ivan Rakitic, again showing the strength of Barcelona’s squad.
72 mins: It’s party time now for Barcelona, The Camp Nou crowd, used to being wowed, has just gasped in disbelief at Neymar controlling a cross-field pass with his back heel. A further sign that Barcelona are confident the tie is in the bag is that Andres Inisesta has just been replaced by Sergi Roberto. Arsenal, meanwhile, bring on Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, in place of Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck.
Suarez's unstoppable volley:
67 mins: Arsenal continue to create danger going forward, however. Welbeck cracks the top of the crossbar with left-footed shot from a tight angle. If only Arsenal could finish with more accuracy they might be truly in this tie going into the final 20 minutes.
GOAL! Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal (Suarez, 64)
A stunning volley from Luis Suarez surely now puts this tie to bed. Dani Alves’ cross from the right was slightly behind the Uruguayan, but he adjusted his body and struck an unstoppable volley into the top corner of the net to leave Ospina unmoved in the Arsenal goal. It’s just too good from Luis Enrique’s side, who now lead 4-1 on aggregate.
62 mins: Now it’s Busquets who gets a foot in to block a Sanchez cross-shot behind for a corner, from which Welbeck heads wide. Another goal and things would become very interesting.
58 mins: Big, big chance for Arsenal. Mathieu’s header goes straight into the path of Welbeck, who had just Mascherano to beat. He appeared to have taken it past the Barcelona defender, but Mascherano made a superb recovery to lunge in and block the shot.
56 mins: Barcelona had become complacent since extending their advantage in the first half, but they appear to have been awoken by that Elnney goal. Messi has just gone close for the hosts, with his low shot across goal having to be turned away by Ospina.
Elneney's stunning goal:
GOAL! Barcelona 1-1 Arsenal (Elneny, 51)
What a goal that is! Sanchez rolled the ball back perfectly to the edge of the box and Elneny arrived onto it with a beautiful first-time curling strike into the top corner of the Barcelona net. That’s some way to get his first goal for Arsenal and, now 3-1 down, it gives Arsenal just glimmer of hope of getting back into this tie.
49 mins: Iwobi continues to play a prominent role for Arsenal, this time finding space on the left of the box, but his shot is blocked behind by Mascherano for a corner. Arsenal are doing fine getting to the Barcelona box, but sorely lack a cutting edge.
Second Half Kickoff! Barcelona get the match back underway in the rain at the Camp Nou.
HALFTIME: Barcelona 1-0 Arsenal (3-0 Agg.)
Arsenal needed to get the opening goal at the Camp Nou, but Laurent Koscielny’s calamitous mistake helped gift Barcelona the lead on the night thanks to Neymar’s calm finish. Trailing 3-0 in the tie, Arsenal have started to cause Barcelona problems and created chances, but surely it will be too little far too late for any hope of a miraculous comeback.
44 mins: Right before halftime, Flamini is taken off, showing signs of a slight limp, with Francis Coquelin coming on in his place.
43 mins: Suarez is found in behind the Arsenal defense, but can’t get another purchase on his volley across goal to trouble Ospina.
39 mins: Two more chances for Arsenal, First Elneny sees a shot blocked by a fine challenge from Mathieu before Sanchez directs a header wide of the target from six yards when he really should have found the net. Arsenal really can’t afford to allow those sorts of opportunities to go begging.
38 mins: Iwobi is involved again, doing well to create space for a shot in the box, but his left-footed effort heads high over the crossbar.
34 mins: Iwobi goes down in the Barcelona box appealing for a penalty as he tried to feed onto a pass from Welbeck, but it appeared that the forward tripped himself up. Certainly there didn’t appear to be any contact from Javier Mascherano. A good decision from the referee.
29 mins: It’s exhibition stuff already at time from Barcelona. Ivan Rakitic turns easily past Mathieu Flamini to leave him flat on the ground before Jordi Alba pokes the ball through the legs of Bellerin. This could be a chastening night for Arsenal.
26 mins: Mathieu Flamini attempts to pull one back with an ambitious effort from 25 yards after a quick corner. It was well hit but always rising over Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s crossbar.
24 mins: Arsenal now have to score three goals without reply at the Camp Nou in order to progress, something which even the most optimistic Arsenal fan will surely struggle to deem plausible.
Neymar's opening goal:
GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 (3-0 Agg.) Arsenal (Neymar, 18)
All too easy for Barcelona, Koscielny attempted to stride out of defense, but got cheaply dispossessed and within the blink of an eye Sergio Busquets found Luis Suarez, who picked out Neymar free coming in from the left to finish low past Ospina. If it wasn’t before, surely that’s now the tie over.
17 mins: Stunning save from Ospina keeps Arsenal alive! Neymar, given too much, space picked Messi out perfectly with a diagonal ball into the box. The Argentine’s control was exquisite and the net looked certain to be burst, but Ospina showed incredible reactions to help the ball behind from pointblank range. From the following corner, his work was almost undone, however, with Jeremy Mathieu given a free header that he turned over.
16 mins: Arsenal are doing well to apply pressure high up the pitch. A forward run from Hector Bellerin allows Elneny to get some space 25 yards from goal, but the Egyptian drags his effort wide of the target. Still, some encouraging signs for Arsenal early on, although they could really do with an early goal to inject some doubts into the mind of Barcelona players.
12 mins: Arsenal have to be alert in their own box, twice getting in crucial interceptions to stop Neymar and Messi from finding a way through to David Ospina’s goal. When any of those Barcelona attacking three link up, there’s danger for Arsenal.
10 mins: Ozil goes close for Arsenal after cutting expertly onto his left foot and drilling a shot just wide of the Barcelona goal from 25 yards. The former Real Madrid man looks very dangerous in the early stages at the Camp Nou.
8 mins: Luis Suarez looked to have gotten through on the Arsenal goal, but, eventually, the offside flag went up.
6 mins: A clever run from Mesut Ozil leads to a pass to Alex Iwobi to give the youngster his first taste of action. His return pass, though, is behind Ozil.
4 mins: Already a worrying sign for Arsenal, with Neymar running into huge space in behind Arsenal’s midfield. With Mathieu Flamini and Mohamed Elneny in there, that kind of gap really shouldn’t be appearing. They escape this time as Neymar runs the ball out of play.
2 mins: The weather is very un-Barcelona like at kickoff, with the rain pouring down at the Camp Nou. Arsenal must be hoping that perhaps that will provide some disruption to Barcelona dominating as they did three weeks ago.
KICKOFF! Arsenal get the second leg underway at the Camp Nou.
2:47 p.m. EDT: Arsenal welcome back Laurent Koscielny into the starting lineup, but it’s Per Mertesacker, rather than Gabriel, he replaces. Taking their place alongside Mertesacker on the bench are Francis Coquelin, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott. While Mathieu Flamini starts alongside Mohamed Elneny, the big surprise is the inclusion of 19-year-old Alex Iwobi. There are no surprises in the Barcelona lineup, with Jeremy Mathieu replacing the suspended Gerard Pique in their only change from the first leg.
__ Barça XI:
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 16, 2016
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) March 16, 2016
Preview: Arsenal will have to make history if they are to reach the Champions League quarterfinals at the Camp Nou on Wednesday and give their ailing season a major boost. In the first leg of their Round of 16 matchup three weeks ago, two Lionel Messi goals have Barcelona a 2-0 advantage over Arsenal to take back to Catalonia.
The record books do not provide kind reading for those from the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal have never overturned a first-leg home deficit in the history of European competition, while Barcelona have always advanced in the European Cup/Champions League after gaining a first-leg advantage on the road.
Arsenal have never even claimed a victory of any kid at the Camp Nou. And, while he insists he still believes that progression is possible, Arsene Wenger must be preparing for what would be an exit at the Champions League’s last 16 stage for a sixth successive season. Indeed, he could perhaps be forgiven for already casting an eye toward a Premier League fixture against Everton on Saturday lunchtime. After a wretched run of form that has seen them fall 11 points back of the top of the table, it is a must-win encounter. While Arsenal fans could stomach their side being beaten by an all-conquering Barcelona team, they will not look so kindly upon the failure to end a 12-year title drought in the most open of Premier League seasons.
Barcelona, meanwhile, had the luxury of resting players in the league last weekend. Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Dani Alves all sat out a 6-0 win over Getafe that maintained Barcelona’s eight-point advantage at the top of La Liga. Already in the final of the Copa del Rey, the Catalans are closing in on an unprecedented back-to-back treble as well as becoming the first team ever to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era.
Luis Enrique, though, who will miss Gerard Pique through suspension on Wednesday, has insisted that his side will be taking for granted against Arsenal, despite their commanding position.
Check back here from 3:45 p.m. EDT for live score updates and video highlights to see if Arsenal can mount a sensational comeback.