Neymar, Suarez and Messi down Arsenal to secure Barcelona progress
Lee Gormley | March 16, 2016
Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal (aggregate 5-1)
- Lionel Messi’s brace separated sides from first leg
- Neymar nets opener after just 18 minutes
- Mohamed Elneny strikes superb second-half leveller
- Luis Suarez scores wonder goal on 65 minutes
- Messi rounds off performance with nice finish
Neymar, Suarez and Messi strike as Barca progress
Barcelona took another step closer to retaining their Champions League crown after easing into the quarter-finals with a comfortable 3-1 last 16 second leg victory (5-1 on aggregate) over Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.
The Gunners travelled to the Nou Camp needing to overturn a 2-0 first leg deficit, but their European hopes slipped further away when Neymar fired low to beat David Ospina after just 18 minutes.
January signing Mohamed Elneny impressively struck a leveller in the second-half, but a moment of true brilliance from Luis Suarez and a delightful late Lionel Messi chip put proceedings beyond doubt, booking Barca a quarter-final position.
Neymar hammers home cool opener
As expected, the visitors were pegged back in their own half for most of the opening stages, with Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel Paulista having to stand strong to withstand the forward movement of Messi and Neymar early on.
Although, with almost quarter of an hour played at the Nou Camp, both Mesut Ozil and Elneny unleashed shots from just outside the Barca penalty area, with the two efforts seeing Marc-Andre ter Stegen scrambling as they drifted wide.
The mercurial Messi was gifted a glorious chance to open proceedings soon after, but stand-in stopper Ospina rescued his side. Though he wasn’t able to thwart Brazilian forward Neymar, who tucked home a well-taken opener after 18 minutes to add to their two previous aways goals.
Rapid right back Hector Bellerin was looking like the most threatening outlet for the Gunners, with the wideman involved in an interesting battle with fellow countryman Jordi Alba, though French midfielder Mathieu Flamini saw a long-range shot blaze over before the half hour mark.
Elneny fires one back for Gunners
The movement of Barcelona’s front three was continuing to cause havoc to the Arsenal backline, with Suarez getting in on the act too, while Neymar saw his effort halted by Ospina, who was performing solidly in place of the injured Petr Cech.
Luis Enrique’s side were forced to track back close to the break, with Nacho Monreal’s run and cross from the left flank calling Javier Mascherano and Jeremy Mathieu into action to defend a shot from Elneny, as Alexis Sanchez then spurned a great close-range opportunity by heading wide.
Flamini became an early casualty for Arsenal as he replaced by Francis Coquelin just before half-time and, after the break, Arsenal looked more encouraging as Sanchez linked up with youngster Alex Iwobi, who fired into the side netting.
With 51 minutes gone, Egyptian enforcer Elneny gave Arsenal a lifeline, as he sublimely side-footed Sanchez’s pinpoint pass into the top right corner to equalise the second leg in Spain.
Suarez blasts in sumptuous volley
Intricate attacking play between Messi and Neymar almost crafted another goal for the hosts soon after they conceded, with the latter’s backheeled flick leading to a low-driven cross from his Argentine teammate, with Ospina getting down acrobatically to save.
The Gunners had clearly gained confidence and momentum from their equaliser but their comeback hopes were shattered when Suarez popped up on 65 minutes with a sensational volley, firing into the top corner to leave Ospina helpless and Barcelona on the verge of yet another quarter-final.
Experienced Spain international Andres Iniesta was replaced by Sergi Roberto late in the tie and Arda Turan was also introduced, as Enrique looked to some fresh legs to see out victory, with Messi then taking hold of the captain’s armband.
Arsenal may have been well behind but they were still showing grit going forward, with Ter Stegen stopping a brilliantly curling Sanchez free-kick and then halting a follow up.
With 88 minutes gone, Messi produced a typically sublime chip to beat Ospina, rounding off another great outing for the South American attacking trio of Barcelona, as they progressed and are 5/4 with Coral to retain their Champions League title.