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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Nothing goes right as Arsenal eliminated by Barcelona

Arsenal have endured an extremely tough night in Catalonia, losing 3-1 to Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16 second leg. The result made the overall aggregate 4-3 in favour of a free-wheeling Barcelona but the Gunners were quite unfortunate as Robin van Persie, who made a swift recovery from a knee injury to get up for the match, was sent off just ten minutes into the second half.

Lionel Messi opened the scoring in injury time of the first half after receiving a neat through ball from Andres Iniesta before dancing past Manuel Almunia but Arsenal managed to get themselves back on level terms early in the second half when Sergio Busquets headed into his own goal.

van Persie was then sent off in very soft circumstances when he was shown a second yellow card for time wasting after an earlier caution for a poor challenge, giving the home side the ascendency which they took with two goals in two minutes - through Xavi and a penalty from Messi - to set themselves up with a 4-3 aggregate.

Pep Guardiola's men, who deserved the win, now advance into the quarter-finals as Arsene Wenger will be looking to the skies above and wondering what he did to deserve such misfortune.

Uefa Champions League - Round of 16 second legBarcelona (ESP): 3 (Lionel Messi 45+3'/(p) 71', Xavi Hernandez 69') Arsenal (ENG): 1 (Sergio Busquets (og) 53')

Venue: Nou Camp, BarcelonaCrowd: 95,468 Referee: Massimo Busacca (SUI) Yellow cards:BAR - nil ARS - Laurent Koscielny 16', Bacary Sagna 29', Jack Wilshere 37', Robin van Persie 45+1'/55' Red card:Robin van Persie 55'

Barcelona made their intentions clear when Pedro was played in early but Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny closed him down in a shaky moment for the visitors.

As expected, the home side were controlling possession and were providing some nervous instances for the Gunners who had Kosicelny and Jack Wilshere in particular to thank for cutting out Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta in the 13th minute.

A rocketed 16th-minute free-kick from Dani Alves appeared to injure the finger of Gunners keeper Wojciech Szczesny who eventually had to be subbed off prior to the 20-minute mark in what was an early blow for Arsenal with Manuel Almunia replacing him.

David Villa found Adriano on the left side of the penalty area in the 36th minute but the Brazilian could only clobber it into the corner of the post from a tight angle with the ball ricocheting way out into midfield where Barca were able to reset again.

The game stopped just before half-time when Eric Abidal went down with a leg injury before Wilshere copped a knock of his own which lead to a slight fracas featuring Victor Valdes and Robin van Persie heavily but it was all handbags in the end.

Messi then had the best chance of the first half in stoppage time when he turned in the area but struck his shot straight at Almunia before the home side got themselves in front through the Argentine maestro. GOALArsenal captain Cesc Fabregas attempted a cheeky backheel just outside the Barca area which was picked up by Iniesta who played in Messi and the star did the rest, flicking over an advancing Almunia before volleying into the back of the net from close range.

GOAL Eight minutes into the second half, Arsenal clawed their way back with a fortuitous goal which came from the head of Barca's centre-half Sergio Busquets from Samir Nasri's swinging corner.

Barcelona almost replied immediately when Villa was played through in the area but Almunia was brave in coming out to meet the play and kept his side ahead on aggregate.

RED CARD There was another twist when van Persie was given a second yellow card, seemingly for time wasting when he played on with his attack only for referee Massimo Busacca to send him from the pitch in what was a very contentious decision.

Dani Alves fired over the top in the 60th minute before Almunia made another solid save seven minutes later, again denying Villa as the Blaugrana kept coming at the North Londoners.

GOALBarcelona were certainly coming hard and they got a second when Iniesta made a slalom run, cutting through the Arsenal defence, before playing it in for Villa who flicked it on for Xavi and he finished past Almunia to make it 2-1 on the night and 3-3 on aggregate.

GOAL Things only got worse for the Gunners when Koscielny brought down Pedro in the area, forcing referee Busacca to point to the area. Messi stepped up to send it past Almunia, putting one of Barcelona's feet into the quarter-finals.

Almunia made another top save in the 79th minute to deny Messi his hat-trick before being called on a few more times as the half progressed before being called on a few more times as the half progressed to keep his side hanging on.

It almost worked when Wilshere played a lovely through ball to substitute Nicklas Bendtner but his first touch was poor and he was unable to guide it past Victor Valdes which was the last real chance to the visitors who met their demise to the Blaugrana for the second season in a row.

Starting Line-Ups

Barcelona Victor Valdes (gk) - Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets, Eric Abidal, Adriano (Maxwell 90') - Xavi Hernandez, Javier Mascherano (Keita 89'), Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi - Pedro Rodriguez, David Villa (Afellay 82')

Subs - Jose Manuel Pinto (gk), Ibrahim Afellay (82'), Seydou Keita (89'), Maxwell Andrade (90'), Bojan Krkic, Gabriel Milito, Thiago Alcantara

ArsenalWojciech Szczesny (gk) (Almunia 19') - Bacary Sagna, Johan Djourou, Laurent Koscielny, Gael Clichy - Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky (Arshavin 74'), Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas (Bendtner 78') - Robin van Persie

Subs - Manuel Almunia (gk) (19'), Andrei Arshavin (74'), Nicklas Bendtner (78'), Denilson, Emmanuel Eboue, Marouane Chamakh, Sebastien Squillaci

Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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