South American strike trio Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were all on the scoresheet with Mohamed Elneny replying for Arsenal as Barca confirmed a quarter-final place 5-1 on aggregate.
“The performance was good. It’s difficult to take to go out but we produced a quality performance against the best team in Europe,” said Gunners boss Arsene Wenger last night.
“The quality of our game was good. I am disappointed with the result as I felt at 1-1 they were wobbling a bit.
“We had our chances, but we couldn’t take them. But we have to say well done to Barcelona.”
“Barcelona have two or three players who transfer normal life into art.”
Coming into the tie 2-0 down from last month’s first leg in London, the Gunners did start the game positively but were another goal behind on 18 minutes.
Sergio Busquets intercepted the ball high up the pitch and immediately fed Suarez, who played the ball into an empty Arsenal right-back area for Neymar to coolly slot low under David Ospina.
Luis Enrique’s in-form team seemed happy to play within themselves, and let Arsenal blow themselves out. But the visitors again started the second half full of energy and got their reward when January signing Elneny curled a beautiful 20-yarder right into the top corner.
It was his first goal for the club.
The game began to open up, with chances at both ends, before Suarez realistically killed off any Arsenal hopes by acrobatically hammering a Dani Alves cross to the top corner from 10 yards.
Messi was not as influential as in the first leg at the Emirates, but he left his mark on the occasion with a sublime clip over Ospina to finish off the scoring late on.
This is the ninth successive qualification for the Champions League quarter-finals for Barca, while Arsenal have now lost in at this stage every year since 2010/11.
In other seasons, Wenger’s team have at least saved some face in the second leg, winning at Bayern Munich in 2013. Here they at least gave it a go, looking to attack from the off in the hope of a goal which might cause doubts among their opponents.
The Gunners peppered the Barca goal with 20 attempts, one more than their opponents. But they only managed to stick three of them on target.
Danny Welbeck had the first decent Arsenal chance, when played into a shooting position by Mesut Ozil’s no-look pass, but the England striker managed to block his own shot with his standing leg. Then 19-year-old Alex Iwobi, on his first Champions League start, seemed to trip himself when he had got behind Javier Mascherano in the penalty area.
At 1-1 near the hour, the tie remained open. Welbeck did have a half-chance for 2-1 on the night, cutting inside to shoot but Javier Mascherano made a super flying block — not unlike his challenge on Nicklas Bendtner in this fixture five years back. Barca keeper Marc Andre Ter-Stegen also made a double save from an Alexis Sanchez free-kick and Olivier Giroud follow-up, as Arsenal kept pressing late on.
All that just added to the feeling of deja-vu around the tie — and the season as a whole for Arsenal. The defeat here means their final outside chance of a trophy this season is surely gone, following last weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final exit to Watford, and a run of just two wins in nine Premier League games seeing them drop 11 points behind surprise leaders Leicester.
“We had some chances, it was difficult to come here 2-0 down but we had a plan to get through,” said Welbeck. “It was a difficult occasion for us and unfortunately we couldn’t get through.
“We had a couple of opportunities where we should have done better and with the quality they have then they are clinical when they have chances.
“Coming to the Nou Camp you really want to leave your mark, we could have done better in certain situations and it is disappointing.”
Ospina 7; Bellerín 6, Koscielny 6, Gabriel 6, Monreal 6; Flamini 5 [Coquelin 5], Elneny 8; Alexis 7, Özil 6, Iwobi 7 [Walcott 5]; Welbeck 6 [Giroud 5].
Ter Stegen 7; Alves 7, Mascherano 7, Mathieu 6, Jordi Alba 7; Rakitic 7 [Arda Turan 6], Busquets 6, Iniesta 6 [Sergi Roberto 6];
Messi 7, Suarez 8, Neymar 7.