Full-time - 90'
2 - 2
UEFA Champions League
18:45 +00:00, March 31, 2010
Emirates Stadium, England
Referee: Massimo Busacca
FULL TIME. What an entertaining game, and honours even. It looked like Arsenal were dead and buried for a long time but the introduction of Walcott helped and they managed to claw it back. Fabregas, Arshavin and Gallas are all injured but Puyol and Pique will miss the return leg. A great game.
Now Barca play keep ball as they run the clock down. We'll be hearing more about that red, for sure. It was debatable.
Barca are sitting deep now trying to hold this scoreline, Arsenal probing but Walcott's cross is met by Valdes as the hobbling Fabregas lurked.
Walcott gets down the right again and squares for the hobbling Fabregas but Milito dives in.
Pedro's cross is over everyone and Barca will now have both Pique and Puyol missing for next week's return leg.
Walcott bursts down the left but his cross is poor. Fabregas tried to join that attack and now he is hobbling back. Why is he still out there? He's not doing any good.
Both teams have ten men, and though Fabregas is back on he looks in a bad way. He's only making his injury worse.
Fabregas is done - he's hobbling off in pain, and Messi is being replaced by Milito.
He's absolutely hammered it down the middle and immediately clutches his leg. He's hobbling around and now he is down.
As Walcott's cross comes in Bendtner feeds Fabregas and as he prepares to shoot Puyol hooks his leg. Cesc over the pen.
ARSENAL PENALTY! PUYOL RED CARD!
Wenger gets a cheer as he hunts down the loose ball and gives it back to Clichy.
Walcott skips down the right, Maxwell gets across then slips and the foul is given Barca's way. A poor decision. The officials have treated this as a non-contact game.
Walcott slips Eboue into the area but it was a little too strong. Eboue tackles Puyol and the ball spins to Valdes.
A poor ball from Denilson as he looked for Walcott. He's hardly touched the ball since his goal.
Diaby lets the ball run across him, Keita nips in and is brought down. Yellow for Diaby.
Denilson is slow to get to his feet after being clipped by Henry.
Henry's first touch is booed, in keeping with tradition. He's right into the action too, trying to cross but sending it to Almunia.
Ibrahimovic comes off and Henry comes on. A huge ovation for the former Gunners striker.
A promising move breaks down when Eboue leaves his ball for Fabregas short and as Barca break Messi gets into the area and Almunia blocks his shot from a tight angle.
Eboue slides in late on Puyol and gets booked. Henry is preparing to come on.
Fabregas feigns to cross, then fires his effort high over the bar. Poor. Very poor. He's not fit, clearly.
Fabregas is not letting anyone else near this free kick.
Arsenal are reborn and Barca are hanging on, as Walcott crosses and Bendtner nearly gets on the end of it. Now Pique fells Fabregas and gets booked. He'll miss the return leg too. Free kick for Arsenal, right on the edge of the box.
Walcott has got the beating of Maxwell in terms of pace. Arsenal just bneed to get the ball to him as often as possible.
A cracking ball inside Maxwell from Bendtner sees Walcott into the area and his shot goes under Valdes and into the net. Game on!
Inter have finally scored against CSKA. Milito has made it 1-0. Back in London, Walcott gets a run but his cross is half blocked by Maxwell and Valdes claims.
Bit of confusion there, Nasri ran off, then Wenger shook his head and decided Sagna should come off instead.
Nasri makes way and Walcott is on.
Here comes Theo Walcott - look out Barca!
Another lofted ball finds Maxwell this time but his control allows Almunia to gather. wenger has just had a right go at Vermaelen, our erstwhile touchline reporter has informed us.
Xavi looks over the top for Busquets this time and there's no flag but Almunia is out to clear. Arsenal are susceptible to that ball every time.
Sagna crosses from the right and Valdes takes it one-handed. Barca toying with the Arsenal.
Arsenal look winded after that second goal and the crowd have gone quiet too.
This going from bad to worse for Arsenal. They somehow managed to hold on under a bombardment in the first half, now they have shipped two sloppy goals in the second.
Arsenal's centre backs lost him, Xavi found Ibrahimovic and he drilled it high past Almunia and into the net. Arsenal need goals now, and fast.
A superb clearance from Song as Maxwell drilled a low cross in between Almunia and the last man. Ibrahimovic was poised.
Clichy makes an important block on Alves who had space down the right.
Now a long ball from Vermaelen ricochets off Bendtner and back to Valdes.
Bendtner had his head in his hands after that save from Valdes. It was a very good reflex stop, but the Dane should have buried it and given him no chance.
Then a miss from Xavi! Alves crosses and Xavi doesn't connect properly from a free header eight yards out. How did he miss?
What a chance! A great move downfield sees Fabregas feed Clichy, his cross is met by Bendtner but Valdes makes a point blank save. That had to be a goal.
Messi's tame free kick hits the wall and Busquets follow up is right at Almunia.
Messi places the free kick and Xavi is there too. It's about 25 yards out left of centre.
Now Ibrahimovic wins a free kick off Song, though the Arsenal defender got the ball. This referee is not good.
Another chance for Barca! Maxwell sped down the left and crossed and as it fell for Pedro hit it, the ball spun narrowly wide.
Fabregas and Pique both slide for a ball down the left and as they get up Arsenal's fans want a free kick for holding but nothing doing. Two former team mates in the youth team challenging together there.
Having held on for such long periods of the opening period Arsenal will be devastated to have conceded with 23 seconds of the second half gone.
Wenger didn't even see the goal, he was still walking down the tunnel. Guardiola did though and he celebrated wildly.
Wow! Just 25 seconds have elapsed as Ibrahimovic runs on to a Pique ball, Almunia comes out into no man's land and the Swede executes a beautiful lob into the net. A disaster for Arsenal.
We're off again....
Eboue roams to the left and slides in Nasri but again, his cross is cleared by Puyol. And that is half time. A breathless opening, in which Barca mullered Arsenal for 20 minutes. Almunia starred and the Gunners are still level.
Ibrahimovic blasts a free kick over the bar from 30 yards. That was pathetic.
Denilson is on for Gallas. Two subs on already for Arsenal and we haven't hit half time yet.
Great move from Arsenal as Fabregas feeds Diaby who plays in Nasri - he goes round Alves and crosses but Puyol clears. Then Fabregas slides in on Busquets and wins the ball but gets booked - meaning he will miss the return leg. He looks gutted.
Alves goes for a one-two with Pedro but the return ball runs out of play. Gunners still down to ten.
Gallas leaves on a stretcher but Arsenal aren't making a change yet. Song drops back to centre half.
A poor ball from Song after Eboue had done well - he's had an impact since he came on. Song gets a yellow for blocking the free kick from close range. Gallas is limping now, too.
Fabregas takes but Valdes claims in front of Bendtner.
Clichy's lovely run down the left comes to an end after a poor touch but he then wins a free kick off Alves on the touchline.
What a miss! Oh, he was offside anyway, but as Nasri's cross came in, two Barca players missed it and Bendtner only had Valdes to beat, he didn't, then hit the post with the rebound but it was all irrelevant anyway.
Messi fires the free kick right at Almunia. Bit of a waste.
Xavi falls over after minimal contact from Song and Barca have a free kick just wide of the corner of the penalty area.
A nice run from Bendtner of all people, who beats two players, before crossing for Diaby but he can't rise high enough to direct his header on target.
Maxwell scoots down the left but Messi's ball skips out of play. Wenger does not look happy on the bench.
Even Valdes is spraying the passes around. He chips a lovely 35 yard ball for Alves, who is then fouled by lichy.
Ibrahimovic fires wide from the edge of the box after a lovely piece of footwork from Messi.
Clichy hesitates in possession after Nasri won the ball well off Pedro, then Bendtner is flagged offside as Fabregas tries to find him.
Barcelona have already had 12 shots on goal. Arsenal, one.
From the corner Alves corsses to the back post and Ibrahimovic is both offside and fouling Sagna. Arsenal free kick.
Eboue's first involvement is to prevent Messi shooting on goal after Pedro fed him on the edge of the box.
Arshavin has hobbled off. What a shame for him. Eboue is on. Odd one that.
Oooh, that was touch and go! Clichy bashed into Messi as he got into the area, there was no contact on the ball but the ref says no pen.
Xavi lifts a ball into the area for Ibrahimovic but Gallas does enough to marshall it back to his 'keeper.
Blimey, 25 minutes have gone already. What a game so far!
Arshavin is limping now, perhaps as a result of that challenge that led to his booking a moment ago. Walcott?
Nasri cuts inside Alves and flashes a shot just past the post. That was close and Valdes was beaten.
Much, much better from Arsenal as Song and Sagna combine. A good ball comes into the box but no-one is in there.
Hopefully that little spell of possession and half chance will give Arsenal a bit of confidence and they can start to get a foothold in the game.
Now Arshavin gets booked for sliding in on Busquets. The Barca players went nuts but it wasn't malicious.
At last a spell of possession for Arsenal as Nasri and Fabregas combine, Sagna crosses and if Bendtner was more alert he might have scored.
In a devastating moment of insight our commentator has just suggested that Arsenal try and get the ball for a bit. Great idea.
Now Alves crosses and yellow shirts are queuing up to score. Pique wins the header but it is right at Almunia, who saves.
Xavi's free kick comes to Maxwell, who hits one and Sagna flicks it over the bar. Corner. The onslaught continues.
Now Vermaelen fells Busquets by the corner flag and Barca have a free kick on the right touchline.
ALmunia has already made four super saves by my reckoning, and Ibrahimovic has already missed two great chances. He's never scored, or beaten, an English team in his career so far.
Ibrahimovic denied again! He is played in by Xavi, Almunia saves, then he stops another effort from Xavi before Song clears off the line from Messi's volley! Incredible defending!
Another sight of goal for Messi after a superb one touch move. Maxwell found Xavi who found Messi and he blasted a shot over from the edge of the box. Can Arsenal hang on?
Barca's full backs, Maxwell and Alves, are darting forward at will here. Barca seem impenetrable when they don't have possession, and when they have it for that matter.
Bendtner chests down Alumnia's long punt brilliantly, before falling over the ball and gifting possession to Puyol.
Ibrahimovic gets the ball again and Messi looks for it, before Song bundles the Swede over the touchline and wins the goal kick.
Now Ibrahimovic hits the side netting after streaking down the right channel. He should have squared it for Messi really.
Finally Arsenal's fans come to life after Barca'a barnstorming start shut them up.
That was a Bendtner style miss from Ibrahimovic. He was definitely offside when the cross came in though. No flag.
What a miss! Xavi finds Alves, he crosses for Ibrahimovic and he has blazed it over the bar from six yards out. Astonishing miss. He looked offside too.
Another slaloming run from Messi has Arsenal trailing and only a great block save from Almunia prevents the opener.
Barca are playing like the home side here. Pressing Arsenal high up the pitch and breaking forward at will.
Dani Alves crosses looking for Ibrahimovic but it is just too far ahead of him. Arsenal looking a little shaky in the early stages.
Apart from the first move of the game, the ball has not left a yellow shirt. Oh, it has now, here is Song.
Now Busquets is found by Xavi from the corner and Almunia makes a brilliant, not to mention important, save.
Early break from Barca, with Messi involved. Then Ibrahimovic fires in a cross and only a last-ditch tackle from Vermaelen prevents a goal.
Let the footballing feast begin....
Right, here come the teams....
In case you've forgotten that balmy night in Paris, Arsenal lost then-goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to a red card after only 18 minutes. And though Sol Campbell gave Arsenal the lead, Barca hit back to win with goals from Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti.
At this stage of the competition every game is hyped to within an inch of its life, and very few deliver. This one, I'm convinced, is going to be an absolute belter. How can it not be? Let's hope for no red cards early on, like there was in the final when these two met in 2006.
Iniesta is the big miss for Barca - he didn't even travel with the squad - but Xavi is fit. That's the equivalent of Arsenal's Fabregas boost. Thierry Henry is on the bench.
Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Puyol, Maxwell, Messi, Keita, Busquets, Xavi, Pedro, Ibrahimovic. Subs: Pinto, Marquez, Bojan, Henry, Milito, Toure Yaya, Jeffren.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Fabregas, Song, Diaby, Nasri, Bendtner, Arshavin. Subs: Fabianski, Rosicky, Eduardo, Walcott, Denilson, Eboue, Campbell.
Without further ado Arsenal fans, let me impart some exceedingly good news; FABREGAS STARTS. There, the news is so big it warrants capital letters. Despite Arsene Wenger saying yesterday he was only 40% fit the gaffer has decided the risk is worth it.
Evening all and welcome to a rather large Champions League encounter. It's only Arsenal versus Barcelona from the Emirates isn't it?
José Manuel Pinto