Arsenal scored twice in the final 12 minutes to beat Barcelona 2-1 in the opening game of their Champions League round of 16 tie, while Shakhtar Donetsk won 3-2 at Roma.
Robin van Persie and substitute Andrey Arshavin scored five minutes apart at the Emirates Stadium in London last night as the Gunners rallied to beat the three-time European champion team for the first time in six meetings.
“When you play Barcelona, you are always on the border of collapsing against them because you can be punished severely for mental mistakes,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said in a news conference. “We kept resilient and strong in the second half. Overall it was an exciting and special night.”
Jadson, Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano scored in a 12- minute span during the first half to give Shakhtar Donetsk the victory in Italy. Simone Perrotta and Jeremy Menez got the Roma goals.
Barcelona and Shakhtar will host the return matches in the two-game series on March 8.
Arsenal, which has never won European soccer’s top prize, had the game’s first chance as Van Persie had a shot from close range blocked by goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Lionel Messi, the World Player of the Year, then broke clear only to chip wide of the post over Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Barcelona took the lead in the 26th minute through David Villa, who stayed onside to accept a pass from Messi before sending a low shot into the corner of the goal.
Goal Ruled Out
Barcelona was unfortunate not to double its lead 12 minutes later. Messi was judged to be offside when he headed in the rebound after Villa’s shot. Replays indicated he was onside.
Van Persie tied the game in the 78th minute when Valdes allowed his shot from near the goal-line to pass between himself and the post.
Five minutes later, Samir Nasri collected Cesc Fabregas’s pass and squared for Arshavin to net the winner with a curling first-time shot. The Russian had replaced Alex Song in the 68th minute.
Szczesny then blocked Dani Alves’s shot with two minutes left to play to scupper Barcelona’s last chance of the game.
Arsenal, which lost the 2006 Champions League final against Barcelona, scored late to secure a 2-2 draw in the quarterfinals last season before losing 4-1 in the second game, with Messi scoring all of Barcelona’s goals.
“We created more chances than in the first leg last year,” Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola said. “We dominated and more or less controlled the game.”
At the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, the home team took the lead on Perrotta’s 28th-minute header. The advantage lasted one minute as Jadson fired a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Doni.
Shakhtar, in the knockout stages for the first time, made it 2-1 seven minutes later as Douglas Costa curled a shot inside the far post and Luiz Adriano made it 3-1 four minutes before halftime.
“Shakhtar have a great future,” Roma coach Claudio Ranieri told reporters. “They have young, talented players, they are very good at keeping possession and always find a man unmarked. They remind me of Barcelona.”
Roma pressed more in the second half against a team that lacks playing time because of Ukraine’s winter shutdown. Menez cut the deficit in the 61st minute with a shot past Shakhtar goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov from 20 meters (22 yards).
“We’re a highly organized team and fast on the counterattack,” Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu told reporters. “In the second half you could see that Shakhtar lack a bit of physical conditioning, so Roma performed well then and pressed us hard.”