Messi Lifts Barca Past Arsenal Into Champions League Quarters

Messi Lifts Barca Past Arsenal Champions League Quarters
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi is congratulated by his teamates. Photographer: Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona dominated 10-man Arsenal 3-1 to reach the Champions League soccer quarterfinals, where the title favorite will be joined by Shakhtar Donetsk.

Xavi Hernandez got the other goal at the Camp Nou last night to give Barcelona a 4-3 victory over two matches. The Spanish league leader outshot Arsenal by 19 to zero, with the visiting team scoring from an own goal by Sergio Busquets.

Barcelona scored twice after Arsenal’s Robin van Persie received a second yellow card for attempting a shot at goal after being called for offside in the 56th minute. The Dutchman said he didn’t hear the whistle from referee Massimo Busacca above the crowd noise.

“We lost against a good team,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports. “The second half would have been very interesting if we had stayed 11 against 11, unfortunately it was not the case. There are regrets when you see how we went out. It is very difficult to accept.”

In Ukraine, Shakhtar Donetsk beat 10-man Roma 3-0 to move into the final eight of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time. Shakhtar goalkeeper Andrei Pyatov saved a penalty, while Philippe Mexes was sent off for Roma.

Leading 2-1 from the first match, Arsenal was boosted by the return of captain Cesc Fabregas and Van Persie from injury. It wasn’t enough to prevent a loss at Barcelona for the second straight year. The Gunners were beaten 4-1 at the Camp Nou in last season’s quarterfinals, with Messi scoring all the goals.

Barcelona recovered after going down 3-2 over the two games last night to reach the quarterfinals for the fourth straight year. The Catalan team won its third European Cup title in 2009.

‘Complicated Game’

“It was a very complicated game,” Barcelona defender Eric Abidal told Television Espanola. “When they scored it was difficult to come back, but we did it. It was 11 against 10, but these things happen in football.”

The home team controlled early play though didn’t manage an attempt at goal. Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny then dislocated his finger saving Dani Alves’s free kick and was replaced by Manuel Almunia.

Pedro Rodriguez curled a shot wide, Almunia saved David Villa’s attempt and Adriano hit the left post from a sharp angle. Almunia then stopped a Messi shot before the World Player of the Year put the home side in front just before the break.

Fabregas gave the ball away deep in his own half and Andres Iniesta lofted a pass into the area for Messi, who took two touches before beating Almunia.

Own Goal

Arsenal tied the game, taking a 3-2 overall lead, after a rare rush forward in the 53rd minute led to Busquets heading Samir Nasri’s corner into his own goal. Villa got behind the defense less than a minute later only to be denied by Almunia.

Van Persie then received his second yellow card for shooting at the goal after being ruled offside.

“It’s a total joke, how can I hear this whistle with 95,000 people jumping up?” he told Sky Sports. “He (Busacca) has been bad all evening, whistling against us. I don’t know why he’s here tonight.”

Almunia smothered another chance from Villa and Alves shot over as Barcelona pressed forward.

Almunia denied Villa again before Barcelona broke through as Iniesta and Villa set up Xavi in the 69th minute. Messi scored with a penalty kick two minutes later after Laurent Koscielny took down Pedro.

Nicklas Bendtner had a chance that may have sent Arsenal through on the away goals rule in the 87th minute, though he was unable to control Jack Wilshere’s pass.

Wenger’s Complaint

Wenger confronted Busacca after the final whistle and followed the referee into the tunnel to complain about Van Persie’s red card.

“He must absolutely have never played football to do that,” Wenger told Sky Sports, adding Busacca offered no explanation.

In Donetsk, Tomas Hubschman, Willian and Eduardo da Silva scored the goals as Shakhtar completed a 6-2 win over Roma.

Hubschman put the Ukrainian club in front in the 18th minute and Pyatov stopped Marco Borriello’s penalty minutes later. Mexes was then sent off four minutes before halftime for a second yellow card.

Willian made it 2-0 in the 58th minute and Eduardo closed the scoring with three minutes remaining to give Shahktar its 18th straight home win in all competitions and extend its unbeaten home run to 54 matches.

In today’s return games in the round of 16, Tottenham hosts AC Milan leading 1-0, while Valencia visits Schalke following a 1-1 draw in Spain in their opener.

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