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Page last updated at 21:09 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 22:09 UK

Wednesday football as it happened


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By Caroline Cheese

2206: I don't know. You go away for three weeks and you come back to a solid gold classic. Charmed life? You betcha. See you tomorrow for Europa League when I expect more of the same...

2202: Barca may be favourites against Arsenal next week but they will be without two key defenders in Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol. Arsenal, though, will be missing skipper Cesc Fabregas, who if he's not injured will definitely be suspended. Andrey Arshavin and William Gallas also went off injured tonight.

2159: I have rather ignored events at the San Siro, for which I can only apologise. It was all too dramatic at the Emirates. You'd have to make Jose Mourinho's side favourites to go through after Diego Milito's goal earned them a 1-0 home win over CSKA. They had chances to make it a bigger win though.

From anon via text: "So am I the only one that watched the Inter game then?"

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: "We looked nervous to begin with. We gave the ball away too quickly, but in fairness they kept going and they missed chances and we did. The regret I have - and I don't deny we played against a great side - but we gave two cheap goals away. It is beyond understanding."

2152: The odds are still massively in favour of Barcelona, according to stat magicians Infostrada Sports. In the 233 times that the first leg of a two-legged Champions League tie has finished 2-2, the away team has progressed 83.7% of the time. Make sense?!

2147: Fabulous game - and curiously, man of the moment Lionel Messi was pretty quiet. Had another look at the penalty incident by the way. I wasn't so sure to start with but I think it was one. A red card seems harsh, but I don't think the ref had much choice once he'd given the pen.

From acmilandrew on Twitter: "Did that match really have to end? Hope the sequel lives up to the original."

2145: I wish the second leg was tomorrow. Actually, I wish it was now.

From Matt via text: "That game of football had everything. Quality. Controversy. Drama. Tie firmly in the balance with Barca's away goals but lack of defenders. Arsenal must be delighted with any chance."

Arsenal's Theo Walcott: "It was a fantastic game for the neutral - and to be involved in. The team did fantastically well to come back tonight. It's going to be tough over there but if we can get a goal and upset the fans early..."

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates Stadium: "Wonderful spectacle. Logic turned on its head and Arsenal somehow still in this tie despite being thoroughly outclassed for long periods. Barcelona played some magical football and will be big favourites in the Nou Camp next week - but Arsenal fans are rightly delighted at the spirit shown by Arsene Wenger's team. It lived up to all the expectations."

From nickc22 on Twitter: "Now THAT'S what I call a football match. How much more drama could you fit in?! I'm a proud, proud Gooner."

2138: FULL-TIME Inter Milan 1-0 CSKA Moscow

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC 5 live's Graham Taylor: "It's one of the most one-sided 2-2s many of us will have seen, but I do blame Barcelona for taking their foot off the pedal at 2-0. When I see that, I think they deserved the result. Arsenal go to the Nou Camp with some hope, not a lot, but some."

2135: FULL-TIME Arsenal 2-2 Barcelona

2133: Into three minutes of added time. Ten-man Barcelona look like they'll settle for their two away goals. Have to give Arsenal huge credit for the recovery. Barca will be cursing the missed chances.

2132: Inter pressing for a second against CSKA with three minutes remaining. Approaching the 90 at the Emirates. I'm still trying to figure out how it's 2-2. Astonishing game.

From TC, Santiago de Compostela, via text: "Well, that decision and card was just a nonsense. But for the neutral it's tie on!"

Red card
Arsenal goal: I have no words to describe this game. As Cesc Fabregas shapes to shoot, his leg is caught by Carles Puyol. The Barca skipper is sent off and after he eventually leaves the pitch, Fabregas steps up to smash in the penalty. Fabregas picks up the ball to run back to the halfway line, but he is limping very badly now. Arsenal have made all their substitutions though.

2127: GOALFLASH Arsenal 2-2 Barcelona (Fabregas)

2125: RED CARD Barcelona (Puyol)


2124: Abou Diaby passes the ball straight out of play. He's had an awful game for which I hold Geoff in Maidstone (see 1937) responsible.

Yellow card
2121: Abou Diaby loses the ball right on the halfway line and lunges at Seydou Keita to earn a yellow card.

2120: Denilson is briefly hobbling after a challenge by Thierry Henry. He's OK though.

2118: Two-goal Zlatan Ibrahimovic trudges off and he is replaced - to an enormous roar at the Emirates - by Arsenal's former hero Thierry Henry.

2116: Thierry Henry is ready to come on for Barcelona... but he'll have to wait because the ball simply refuses to go out of play.

2114: Cesc Fabregas lifts the free-kick harmlessly over the bar. Over at the San Siro, Goran Pandev waltzes through the CSKA defence and past the keeper but Pavel Mamaev somehow hooks the ball off the line.

Yellow card
2114: Gerard Pique brings down Cesc Fabregas and a yellow card means he joins Fabregas in missing the second leg.

Arsenal goal: Eh? Wasn't expecting that. Nicklas Bendtner slips the ball through for Theo Walcott, who moments after coming on manages to squeeze a shot under Victor Valdes's right arm. Bit of hope for the Gunners.

2112: GOALFLASH Arsenal 1-2 Barcelona (Walcott)

Inter goal: The hosts break the deadlock. Wesley Sneijder drives forward from midfield before laying off to Diego Milito, who slots it low into the bottom corner.

2109: GOALFLASH Inter Milan 1-0 CSKA Moscow (Milito)

2109: Theo Walcott replaces Bacary Sagna for Arsenal and there's a goal at the San Siro...

2108: CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev saves well from Goran Pandev as Inter Milan look to grab a first-leg lead.

2107: Xavi is pulling all sorts of strings in midfield. The brilliant Spaniard finds the run of Lionel Messi, whose first touch is heavy. The Argentine is clipped from behind and half-appeals for a penalty, but to no avail.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates Stadium: "Barcelona and Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have let Arsenal off the hook in the first half - but not after the break. Two goals from Ibrahimovic and surely an impossible task for Arsene Wenger's side. Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia showed, with the first goal, that for all his brilliance before the break his decision making is horribly flawed."

2104: Jose Mourinho rolls his eyes as Esteban Cambiasso drives into the box before finding Dejan Stankovic in space. Stankovic seems to get the ball stuck under his feet though and his eventual shot is weak.

Barcelona goal: Tie over? Xavi catches Arsenal's defence embarrassingly flatfooted with a lofted pass for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who takes a touch before lashing the finish into the top corner.

2101: GOALFLASH Arsenal 0-2 Barcelona (Ibrahimovic)

2100: Scintillating move from Barca, quick feet moving the ball from right to left. Low cross in from Maxwell is cleared though.

2058: Chance for CSKA at the San Siro as Yevgeny Aldonin's dipping shot is tipped over by Julio Cesar. Inter still doing most of the pressing though.

2055: Arsenal should be level. Nicklas Bendtner meets Gael Clichy's left-wing cross with a thumping header but it's too close to Victor Valdes, who claws the ball out. And now Barca might be 2-0 up. Dani Alves provides the cross for Xavi, but he seems to misjudge the jump and can't direct the header.

2053: Pedro smashes a volley wide for Barca. It's like the first half all over again.

From Kalika, Rickmansworth, via text: "Almunia shows his true colours! The first half was a goalkeeper in disguise!"

Barcelona goal: Eleventh time lucky then. Less than 30 seconds into the second half, Gerard Pique sends a long ball down the right for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to run on to and the Swede delicately lobs the ball over Manuel Almunia and inside the far post. Question mark over Almunia's positioning but a magnificent finish in Zlatan's 11th game against English club opposition.

2048: GOALFLASH Arsenal 0-1 Barcelona (Ibrahimovic)

2047: We're back under way at the Emirates.

From stonecoldsober on 606: "Uefa should just give Barcelona the trophy now. It will save the other teams playing a few extra games in the long run."

From OptaTim, Dorset, via text: "Perhaps the most amazing stat of all: 0-0."

From Gallacticos87 on Twitter: "It probably goes without saying that Arsenal now need to score at least twice. No chance without Cesc in Catalonia."

2037: Barcelona had 71% of the possession in the first half and nine shots on target to Arsenal's none. Someone needs to remind Barca this is the away leg.

2033: Cesc Fabregas had a long talk with referee Massimo Busacca as the players trooped off at half-time, and the ref was given the full booing treatment by the home fans. That booking certainly looked harsh, but Fabregas will have to put that out of his head. BBC 5 live point out that Fabregas now needs to do a Roy Keane v Juventus 1999.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates Stadium: "The first half has simply flown by, soothed by a supreme display of passing by Barcelona. Manuel Almunia has been Arsenal's hero, but the last 15 minutes have at last started to resemble a contest. Arsenal's resources are being stretched by those injuries to Andrey Arshavin and William Gallas. Arsene Wenger will be relieved that Arsenal have somehow survived until the interval on level terms - now he needs to find some answers at half-time."

2032: HALF-TIME Inter Milan 0-0 CSKA Moscow

2032: HALF-TIME Arsenal 0-0 Barcelona

2031: Inter, on top against CSKA, almost break the deadlock just before half-time. Wesley Sneijder exchanges a neat one-two with Diego Milito in the box but on collecting the return pass the Dutchman is off-balance and his shot was harmlessly poked wide.

Yellow card
2028: It never rains... Cesc Fabregas has his very own Gazza moment as he is booked for a challenge on Sergio Busquets, meaning he will miss the return leg at the Nou Camp. The Arsenal skipper won the ball but maybe went in a little wildly. The Arsenal skipper responds by sitting on his haunches and covering his face.

2026: Gallas, back today after eight games out with a calf injury, won't be continuing and Arsenal will make their second injury-enforced change. Looks like Denilson will come on, and Alex Song will move back into defence. Sol Campbell stays put on the bench.

Yellow card
2025: Alex Song gets a stupid yellow card for not retreating at a free-kick... and now more doom and gloom as the physio signals for a stretcher for William Gallas.

2022: Drama! Poor defensive header leaves Nicklas Bendtner with a great chance at the far post, but Victor Valdes pulls off a magnificent save. Bendtner's follow-up hits the post and comes off Sergio Busquets - before the linesman rains on that particular parade by waving his offside flag at Bendtner.

2020: Arsene Wenger must be praying Arsenal can get to half-time at 0-0 so he can work some half-time magic. Nicklas Bendtner does some good work down the right and it's a reasonable cross too, but Abou Diaby can't get enough purchase on his header.

2017: Zlatan Ibrahimovic drags a shot inches wide. Ten games without a goal against an English club, and he's already missed a few tonight. Bound to score...

2015: Barca are stroking the ball about in midfield. Again. Ho hum.

2013: Half a shout from Barca for a penalty as Gael Clichy tangles with Leo Messi. Nothing doing. And here comes Emmanuel Eboue to replace the injured Andrey Arshavin.

From Mitsos Karamitsos on 606: "It's like Barcelona are playing with 12... sheesh."

2010: Bad news for Arsenal. Andrey Arshavin is limping. Emmanuel Eboue is warming up.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates Stadium: "You will rarely see a more one-sided opening 15 minutes of football without a goal being scored. Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia has somehow single-handedly kept Barcelona out. It is magnificent to watch from Barcelona but torture for Arsenal and their supporters. The big plus? They are somehow still on level terms. Somehow."

2008: Arsenal go very close - and what a remarkable story that would be after being completely overrun for 20 minutes. Samir Nasri's well-struck shot doesn't have quite enough curl on it and it whistles past Victor Valdes's left-hand post.

2007: Goran Pandev's fierce shot from 20 yards clips off a defender and dips just over the bar as Inter go close to breaking the deadlock against CSKA.

Yellow card
2006: Arsenal ease the pressure a bit and Andrey Arshavin whips over a cross from the right which Carles Puyol does well to head clear. Not long after, Arshavin is booked for a late tackle on Sergio Busquets.

From anand_ramki on Twitter: "Arsenal should let a goal in. Maybe, Barca will let up a bit."

2001: Pedro's shot is deflected over by Bacary Sagna's head. Manuel Almunia catches Gerard Pique's header. I'll say this for Arsenal: their last-ditch defending has been nothing short of superb. They could do with starting to defend a bit earlier though.

2001: Barca have had nine shots, Arsenal none. Enough said.

1958: I have no idea how this is still 0-0. Barca have just had about a MILLION chances in a minute. Leo Messi blazes over, Manuel Almunia saves brilliantly first from Zlatan, then from Xavi. Alex Song clears off the line from Messi's volley. Unbelievable.

1956: Not so evenly matched at the Emirates, where Arsenal continue to chase shadows. Wenger's young charges look overawed at the moment.

1956: First shot on target at the San Siro as Samuel Eto'o cuts inside and shoots from 20 yards. Easy save for Igor Akinfeev though. Evenly matched start between Inter and CSKA.

1953: Abou Diaby gives the ball away carelessly and suddenly Zlatan Ibrahimovic is cantering away down the right. He should square it to Leo Messi, who has sprinted to keep up with him, but slams a shot into the sidenetting instead.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates Stadium: "Huge anticipation inside the Emirates but a hush fell around the stadium as Lionel Messi signalled his intent with that early surge into Arsenal territory. Barcelona swiftly into their smooth passing stride and this is a real test of the iron-clad belief Arsene Wenger has in his team. This game is already a mouth-watering prospect."

1951: SITTER! Xavi sprays a wonderful pass out to Dani Alves, who puts it on a plate for Zlatan Ibrahimovic - but the Swede somehow blazes over. Barca are all over Arsenal. Manuel Almunia has also saved from Leo Messi. Arsene Wenger frowns.

1948: It's classic Barca already. Harrying the opposition when not in possession, and loathe to give up the ball when in possession. Arsenal need to weather the storm.

1946: Ominous start from the visitors. A dancing run from Leo Messi and he lays the ball off to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who drives in a cross which Thomas Vermaelen scrambles behind ahead of Xavi. From the corner, Sergio Busquets shoots from 16 yards, good save Manuel Almunia.

1945: The Arsenal-Barca game kicks off about a second after they get under way at the San Siro.

1943: I think we're all worried about this game being overhyped, so let me say this: I'm expecting a drab 0-0, with little goalmouth incident.

1941: Cesc Fabregas is in the tunnel and ready to lead out Arsenal as the home fans enjoy their now traditional rendition of Wonder Of You.

From Cynical_Joey on 606: "Impossible to call. If both teams play at their peak, Barca will win. Arsenal need to play of their skins and hope Barca are not on their game tonight. I would say Arsenal need 2-0 from this to stand a chance over the tie."

1937: Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played 10 games against English clubs and not scored a sausage - or a goal. I think he scored for Sweden against England though.

From Jensen, via text: "Re 1929: An hour in hospital and deep in thought... must be pregnant."

From Geoff in Maidstone, via text: "All the talk is about Fab, but the key will be how much Diaby can boss the midfield to protect him and still manage to get forward to support the strikers. Big, big game for Abou."

From Ian in the Cayman Islands, via text: "Vamos Barca! Watching the live text at work here in Grand Cayman. Let's see Ibrahimovic net a screamer! 3-2 Barca!"

From Riquelminho on 606: "Without Iniesta, Barca are like a Supercar without an engine. Arsenal 2-1."

1929: More on Rooney: BBC 5 live report that he spent an hour in hospital and looked "deep in thought" when he left, still on crutches. WHAT CAN IT MEAN???

From sportsfan_86 on Twitter: "Was half expecting Fabregas to repeat his performance against Villa by coming off the bench to score two. He won't last, surely?"

1925: To those of you still fretting about Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United striker has left hospital but there is still no official word on how long he'll be out for. Fabio Capello will be among those frantically refreshing the United website. Probably.

1922: It's raining in north London, which former Arsenal goalie Bob Wilson tells BBC 5 live could add a bit of spice to proceedings - especially when Manuel Almunia's involved, he absolutely does not add. "I always quite liked the rain," says Bob, "because I had a built-in excuse."

From The Master Tactician on 606: "Although it's widely known that these two teams play sexy football, I think a key difference will be how well Arsenal can match the Barcelona work ethic to get the ball back once they lose it. Maybe that could be the difference?"

1917: There are a few boos around the Emirates Stadium as Barcelona emerge to warm up. That all stops when Thierry Henry steps onto the pitch and Arsenal's record-breaking goalscorer gets a warm ovation from the home fans.

From ankush83 on Twitter: "Bendtner to work his Europe magic again and score a hat-trick, no?"

1914: Graham Taylor and Alan Green on BBC 5 live both believe Arsene Wenger is taking a considerable risk in starting Cesc Fabregas. They fear that Wenger's heart is ruling his head.

From Hids, Notts, via text: "I finish work at 7.30, can I beat my record journey home time of 17 mins? Let's hope so because I don't want to miss a minute of this. Sexy football meets sexy football, is 4-4 too much to ask? Here's to guapa galore."

1908: Some team news from the San Siro. For Inter Milan, centre-back Lucio is missing through suspension, so Marco Materazzi comes into the side. Lucio's fellow Brazilian Thiago Motta is also banned and is replaced in midfield by Goran Pandev. CSKA make two changes of their own with Deividas Semberas and Vasili Berezutski replacing Kirill Nababkin and Elver Rahimic in defence.

BBC Radio 5 live
1907: BBC 5 live's Alan Green reports that Barcelona have apparently agreed that should Cesc Fabregas break down in the warm-up, Arsenal can amend their starting line-up accordingly. Teams usually have to name their side an hour before kick-off.

1905: The winner of Arsenal-Barca will, of course, meet the winner of Inter Milan-CSKA Moscow in the semi-finals. Inter boss Jose Mourinho has been in top form in the lead-up to the game, telling a news conference he is unhappy in Italian football because "I do not like it and because it doesn't like me." This has been widely translated as: "I'm outta here. Who wants me?"

1902: TEAMS Inter Milan v CSKA Moscow
Inter Milan: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Materazzi, Samuel, Zanetti, Stankovic, Cambiasso, Eto'o, Sneijder, Pandev, Milito. Subs: Toldo, Cordoba, Quaresma, Muntari, Mariga, Chivu, Arnautovic.
CSKA Moscow: Akinfeev, Vasili Berezutsky, Alexei Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Shchennikov, Krasic, Aldonin, Semberas, Mamaev, Honda, Necid. Subs: Chepchugov, Dzagoev, Gonzalez, Nababkin, Odiah, Guilherme, Rahimic.
Referee: Howard Webb (England)

1858: TEAMS Arsenal v Barcelona
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Fabregas, Song, Diaby, Nasri, Bendtner, Arshavin. Subs: Fabianski, Rosicky, Eduardo, Walcott, Denilson, Eboue, Campbell.
Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Puyol, Maxwell, Messi, Keita, Busquets, Xavi, Pedro, Ibrahimovic. Subs: Pinto, Marquez, Bojan, Henry, Milito, Toure Yaya, Jeffren.
Referee: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)

From AaronJWood86 on Twitter: "Good Luck to Arsenal not only Fabregas starting but Gallas too. Hopefully both players not coming into this game on risk."

From tomtallant on Twitter: "Fabregas and Messi on the same pitch is a neutral's dream! Can't wait now!"

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at the Emirates Stadium: "Thierry Henry said he was 'in pain' at the thought of playing against Arsenal at the Emirates. He may find it even more painful to sit and watch the action as a substitute for Barcelona tonight. Still plenty of threat in that Barcelona line-up, and the big news for Arsenal is that Cesc Fabregas is in the starting line-up. Arsene Wenger said Fabregas would have his final fitness test in the warm-up, so plenty of eyes will be fixed on Arsenal's captain."

From Craig, London, via text: "I'm an Arsenal fan and I just want us to give ourselves a chance in the tie after tonight. We can get at Barca's backline with our players. Come on you Gooners!"

1847: Full line-ups to follow of course. Meanwhile, I should imagine you'll have something to say about all of this. I'm on the usual 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666, or 606 or Twitter.

Arsenal: Almunia, Clichy, Vermaelen, Gallas, Sagna, Diaby, Song, Fabregas, Arshavin, Bendtner, Nasri.
Barcelona: Valdes, Maxwell, Puyol, Pique, Alves, Xavi, Busquets, Keita, Pedro, Ibrahimovic, Messi.

1842: BREAKING TEAM NEWS Fabregas starts, Henry on the bench.

1840: So I know there's only one thing on the mind of every Arsenal fan, and it's not how on earth you go about stopping Lionel Messi. Will Cesc play? You'll know as soon as I do. Wenger said yesterday he had a 40% chance of playing, and the Arsenal manager will leave his decision as late as possible. Most newspaper reports suggest the ex-Barca boy will be risked.

1836: So says Arsene Wenger, and while under normal circumstances I'd say that's a sure sign of a dour 0-0, I really don't think this game counts as normal circumstances. Welcome along to Arsenal v Barcelona. If this game doesn't stir your soul, then I'm a little bit worried for you - but maybe Inter Milan v CSKA Moscow might do the trick? Maybe?

1830: "You can never see a dull game between two teams like this."

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31 Mar 2010 23:59 UK

see also
Wednesday's football photos
31 Mar 10 |  Football
Football on the BBC
11 Aug 10 |  Football

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