Barca and Shakhtar progress in Champions League
Paris: Barcelona and Shakhtar Donetsk have reached the Champions League quarter-finals after seeing off Arsenal and AS Roma respectively with both the losing sides finishing with 10 men.
Barcelona dominated Arsenal to win 3-1 on the night - 4-3 on aggregate - though the losers were left seething at the second-half dismissal of Dutch star Robin van Persie for a second bookable offence when he shot at goal after the referee had already blown his whistle.
Barca’s goals came from a double by Lionel Messi and one from Xavi while the Gunners sole reply was a Sergi Busquets own goal in a match where the losers might feel aggrieved but the statistic of 19 shots by the hosts, with 10 on target, to Arsenal’s zero tells its own story.
Shakhtar eased through 3-0 at home to Roma for a 6-2 aggregate victory - the Italians played for 50 minutes with 10 players after French central defender Philippe Mexes was also dismissed for a second bookable offence.
Roma were fortunate not to also see Daniele De Rossi get a straight red card for a vicious elbow on Shakhtar captain Dario Srna on the stroke of half-time - England’s World Cup final referee Howard Webb ended up booking a bemused Srna instead.
Shakhtar’s victory - which confirmed they are a force to be reckoned with by most teams left in the competition - will be keenly felt by Arsenal as well.
Not only did former Gunners striker Eduardo get among the goals for the Ukrainian side in Tuesday’s win but Arsenal demolished them 5-1 in the group stage at the Emirates only to end up second to the 2009 UEFA Cup winners in the final standings.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola admitted it had been a tough decision by Swiss referee Massimo Busacca to book Van Persie for the second offence but he had no truc with Arsenal’s unlucky losers claim.
“We didn’t allow them to make three or four successive passes this evening,” he said.
“We played a perfect game. I am so happy, indeed we all are at our performance. Over the two legs we were better than them.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger - whose side’s hopes of ending their title drought dating back to 2005 are in danger of ending in disappointment again - could not accept that the better side had won.
“We lost against a good team but if it had stayed at 11 players apiece then I could accept losing,” said the Frenchman, who has seen his side lose in the League Cup final and exit here in the past 10 days leaving the Premier League title and FA Cup still alive as trophy hopes.
“Unfortunately that was not the case and we have many regrets tonight.
“The way we lost tonight makes it hard to accept.”
Van Persie, who was only passed fit to play on the morning of the match, risked greater censure after not mixing his words about the referee after the match.
“My sending off was hugely influential on the outcome of the match,” said Van Persie.
“It was a total joke. How can I hear the whistle when there are 95,000 fans jumping up and making noise.
“He’s (Busacca) been bad all evening and I don’t know why he’s here.”
“They are unbelievable these people.”
Goals by Tomas Hubschmann, outstanding Brazilian Willian and Eduardo extended Shakhtar’s unbeaten home record in European competition to October 2008 when they went down to Sporting Lisbon.
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu said that he was delighted with the victory but added his side was a work in progress.
“This team is maturing, we have players of 20 and 21-years-old, under contracts for four to five years,” said the experienced Romanian, who previously guided Turkish side Galatasaray to the last eight of the competition.
“We won the UEFA Cup, we have created a new benchmark against Roma, what interests me is to take a step forward, we are not thinking of what comes next.”