LONDON, Sporting Alert – Lionel Messi netted a brace, and Barcelona took a giant step toward knocking Arsenal out of the Champions League after the holders beat the EPL side 2-0 at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.
After a scoreless first half in which Barcelona failed to get a shot on target, Messi gave the travelers the lead in the 71st minute.
The Spanish giants turned defence into attack when Luis Suarez and Neymar combined to setup Messi, who to coolly finish from inside the box.
Neymar found Suarez, who played the ball right back to the Brazilian who raced down the left flank and then pass inside for a wide open Messi to take a touch and fire past Petr Cech.
Messi, who was scoring against Cech for the first time, made it 2-0 when won and then took the penalty kick to give Barcelona the two-goal cushion in the 83rd minute.
1 – Lionel Messi has scored his first ever goal against Petr Cech, ending a run of 10 hours & 11 mins without scoring against him. Blow.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 23, 2016
The Argentine captain has now scored eight Champions League goals against Arsenal which is the second most he’s scored against one opponent in the European tournament.
He’s netted eight against Italian Serie A side AC Milan.
“Barcelona is a great team. We put a lot of energy in the game and technically we were very average,” admits Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on BT Sport.
“The regret I had was once we looked like we dominate the game, we give the goal away. Similar to Monaco last season, naive, and that is frustrating.
“When we looked like we could win the game, we just gave it away.
“Realistically it is very, very difficult, if not impossible. We have to go there and fight. We had the chances, we didn’t score.”
Barcelona will be without leading centre-back Gerard Pique for the second leg after the Spanish international picked up a yellow card for a poor lunge on Danny Welbeck late in the second half.
Despite the defeat, former Tottenham and England midfielder Jermaine Jenas thought Arsenal gave a good account of themselves.
“I felt the Arsenal players gave good account of themselves in parts of the game but this Barcelona side have got too much class,” Jenas said on BBC Radio 5 live.
“Tonight is a flavour of how dangerous they can be.”
Arsenal were losing in the round of last 16 for the four straight time.