By Walter Broeckx
Lots of changes at the start but that was to be expected of course. In fact it was the team that was expected at the start of the match. Well the team I expected anyway.
Starting XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud
On the beach: Ospina, Chambers, Gibbs, Flamini, Campbell, Walcott, Welbeck
Arsenal with an early attack but Barcelona can clear. Then Barcelona take over for a few minutes but no real danger. Monreal goes in the book very early after a slipping challenge on Rakitic. Not the man you want to see booked so early on. Arsenal with a good attack, a back heel from Ramsey to Özil who plays it back to him but Ramsey can’t get his foot around the ball and the shot hits a defender and Barcelona can clear. Barcelona trying to keep the ball but not really going forward. Both teams trying to press rather high and this leads to lots of misplaced balls by both teams. 0-0 after 15 minutes.
Apart from a few misplaced balls and a few crosses both keeper almost unemployed in the first 20 minutes. A great attack from Arsenal Özil with pass to Bellerin whose left footed shot is blocked by a defender and the rebound falls to Oxlade-Chamberlain who shoots straight at the keeper. The biggest chance of the match for both teams. Another counter but Pique can cut out the pass from Özil at the cost of a corner. A backpass from Barcelona is ignored by the ref but luckily the following Barcelona counter leads to nothing. Best chances, only chances in the match so far for Arsenal but still 0-0 after 30 minutes.
Assistant gives a goal kick for Arsenal that should have been a corner for Barcelona. Cech being good on the ball when Suarez managed to get past some defenders with a few lucky bounces of the ball. Messi runs in to Koscielny to win a free kick and gets it. The wall saves it and The Ox on the counter but blocked by Mascherano leaving both players on the ground. The Barcelona player first on the ball but bad coming together. The Ox seems to be the biggest victim but he comes back between the lines limping a bit. Messi trying a shot but Ramsey with a block. Özil beating Messi to the ball just outside the Arsenal penalty area. Good work Mesut. A misunderstanding between Ramsey and The Ox leads to a Barcelona counter but nobody on hand apart from Monreal at the final pass from Suarez. Alves then with a cross but Suarez heads wide. Barcelona closest to a goal in the final minute of the first half. But neither team could score after a very tight first 45 minutes: 0-0.
No changes at the start of the second half in the Arsenal team. Neymar suddenly in space but Cech came out winner in this one on one. Great save from Cech. After 50 minutes The Ox comes off and Theo comes on. The Ox had been limping since his collision with Mascherano. Arsenal under some pressure in the opening minutes of the second half. Bellerin and Mertesacker with vital clearances. Jordi Alba then tries to get Giroud booked by pretending to have been hit in the face… . The Arsenal supporters sing to support the team. Özil in some space but the pass is cut out in the last instant. A cross immediately after that from Monreal and a good header from Giroud but Ter Stegen can palm the ball away from his goal line. Better from Arsenal now but still 0-0 after 60 minutes.
Barcelona now again with some corners but Monreal and Giroud can block the crosses. A free kick to Arsenal but Kos, Alexis see their shot blocked and finally Ramsey fires wide. A minute later at the other end Per with a vital block and then Suarez shoots wide. Alexis with a great defensive interception against Messi in midfield to stop a possible Barcelona counter. Giroud recovers the ball in the Barcelona penalty are but Walcot had run inside and Giroud expected him outside. A bit later a low cross but no Arsenal player at the end of it and Barcelona can clear.
Arsenal losing the ball and Barcelona can counter and Neymar in some space and with only Monreal between him and Messi the latter gets the ball completely free and he scores. 0-1 for Barcelona after 71 minutes. The centre of the defence completely went missing there both Per and Kos not to be seen.
Welbeck comes on for Giroud and he goes round his man but cannot find a teammate with his cross. Arsenal now open themselves up more and is lucky when Suarez hits the post after Per had blocked the first shot. At the other end Welbeck with a lay off to Ramsey but the keeper is first on the ball as Busquet just got a touch.
Coquelin goes off after 81 minutes and Flamini comes on. Flamini immediately is judged to have fouled Messi and that is alas correct, Messi was first to the ball. Messi converts the spot kick. 0-2 to Barcelona after 83 minutes. I expect a lot of abuse towards Flamini in the next days from the blame brigade. Two very avoidable goals.
Pique gets a yellow card after foul on Welbeck. To make the evening even more sour Ramsey felt some pain in his knee after a collision with Koscielny. But he could continue. Cech with a good save on a Neymar header in extra time.
A match that was lost in two moments that could have been avoided but that is football, Barcelona took their chances better than us. We had enough chances when it was 0-0 but couldn’t take them . The match up to then was in balance but one counter decided the outcome. And I think Wenger was not too pleased with the way the first goal came about.
Maybe time to send the reserves to Nou Camp and concentrate on the FA cup and league from now on.