Barcelonas dynamic attacking trio of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were too strong for Arsenal as all three scored in a 3-1 victory on 16 March that sent the Spanish side into the Champions League quarter-finals 5-1 on aggregate.
Brazils Neymar opened the scoring in the first half as the home side dominated the early play, but Arsenals Mohamed Elneny curled in an excellent finish to spark life into the visitors after the break. Suarez, however, launched himself into the air to meet a Dani Alves cross and send a superb volley into the top corner to deflate the English side, who have now been knocked out of the tournament in the last 16 for six successive seasons.
The mercurial Messi rounded off the scoring with a trademark chipped finish two minutes from time as the defending champions extended their record-breaking unbeaten run to 38 matches in all competitions. Instead of being overly upset with his sides exit, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger felt moved to praise Barcelona, and Messi in particular, for their performance.
We couldnt take the chances we created but I must say as well that Barcelona, going forward in the final third, the accuracy of their passing, the quality of their creativity, especially Messi, is absolutely exceptional. You go through 90 minutes and you come out of a game âˆ’ he didnt miss one first touch. No matter where the ball comes from, said the Frenchman after the match
[You have to] in some stage in our sport admire art and they have two or three players who transform normal life into art and I respect that and I believe that pleasure, as well âˆ’ of course, for me, it is suffering. But for a guy who just lost at football, it is exceptional what he does.
Wenger said his team did have chances to score throughout the game, but that, in the end, Barcelona just had too much quality.
I am pleased with the performance we have put in. I think the quality of our game was good. I am disappointed with the result, but overall I think we played against a team with the best strikers I have seen. The three together is absolutely exceptional and from nothing they can create a chance, said Wenger.
The defeat will increase the pressure on the Arsenal boss, whose side are 11 points adrift of leaders Leicester City in the Premier League and exited the FA Cup last weekend. Barcelona, meanwhile, remain on course for a second successive treble.