LONDON. — Lionel Messi has revealed Barcelona knew Arsenal would fall apart in the second half of their crunch Champions League soccer clash, but claimed the tie isn’t over. The Argentina captain bagged a late brace to hand the defending champions a significant advantage heading into the second leg at the Nou Camp.
And despite Arsenal frustrating their visitors and being the better side before the break, Messi told reporters that his side knew the Gunners would deteriorate.
“The first half they did well, and physically they are very strong. “We knew that they would get worse in the second half, that they wouldn’t hold out.
“That’s how it turned out and we found the spaces to score.”
And while Arsene Wenger appeared to virtually concede the tie to the Spanish giants in his Press conference, Messi’s post-match view was that the Gunners are still in with a chance.
“The tie isn’t over,” he said.
“We know what they’re capable of. Nothing is done yet but it’s a great result.”
And Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech said yesterday his team still had a chance to reach the Champions League quarter-finals despite a 2-0 loss to reigning title-holders Barcelona.
“We are still alive,” the 33-year-old Czech Republic keeper said on his website following Tuesday’s loss at the Emirates.
“It’s not as if we conceded five goals,” he added.
Cech, who joined Arsenal from Chelsea before this season, offered a few good saves on Tuesday but failed to stop Lionel Messi who scored 71 minutes into the game before adding a second from the penalty spot on 83 minutes.
“The second goal trimmed our chances for the second leg. But nothing’s lost yet,” said Cech.
“If we play the same way and improve productivity, we still have a chance to turn the fight for the last eight into a drama.”
The return leg tie is at the Camp Nou on March 16.
Cech bemoaned the Gunners’ failure to score, which he said made the biggest difference between both teams.
“If you play against one of the favourites to win the competition and you create chances, you have to convert at least one,” said Cech.
Messi beat Cech for the first time in their seven encounters, but Cech waved his record aside.
“I regret our loss, not being beaten by one of the best footballers in history,” he said. — The Mirror.