Magical Lionel Messi refuses to accept Arsenal are already goners

Match-winner Lionel Messi has refused to accept Barcelona are already through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League after their victory at Arsenal.

The World Player of the Year scored both goals as the reigning European champions left the Emirates Stadium with a 2-0 victory in the first leg of their last-16 clash with the Gunners.

But Messi insisted there is still much to play for during the return leg at the Camp Nou on March 16.

“The tie is not over, but we’ve got two away goals and that’s not easy to do,” he said. “At the Nou Camp we’ll go out to win, as we do at every ground. It was a very good result against a great team, who have some really good players. I’m delighted with the result. We’ve played Arsenal several times and we know what they are capable of doing.

“Arsenal did very well in the first half, with some help, but we knew they wouldn’t be able to keep that pace up all the way. In the second half we had more space and that’s how we got the first goal.”

Midfielder Sergio Busquets believes it was Arsenal’s decision to go in search of a goal of their own that ultimately allowed the visitors to assume control.

“We’re really happy with the result we got,” he said. “They were strong physically, but little by little we gained control of the game, 2-0 sets us up nicely for the second leg in Barcelona.

“When Arsenal created pressure, they also left a lot of space at the back. They wanted to take risks, but we did too and that’s how we opened the scoring.”

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker insists the Gunners must not feel sorry for themselves after Tuesday’s defeat — and believes there is still a small chance of advancing in the Champions League.

The result leaves Arsenal staring at another exit at the round of 16 stage — a point they have failed to pass since 2010.

But, with the team still right in the hunt for the Premier League title and a crunch game at Manchester United to come on Sunday, Mertesacker says there is no time for anyone to allow their head drop.

“No, never,” the German World Cup winner replied when asked about feeling sorry for themselves.

“We have never done that this season. When we have lost a game we have tried to bounce back quickly. We have a great chance on Sunday to do that again and to show we are still in a strong position and still competing for the title.

“It was obviously a disappointing ending, I think we defended so well over 70, 80 minutes and then got punished twice.

“It was a bit naive but when you keep going for such a long time and keep up with a good team you have to score.”

He added: “We won’t give up, honestly. There is a small chance, small margins obviously but we could see they were vulnerable at times. We need to play better on the break and when we had the ball, we could have created more chances and shared the ball better in the final third.

“You have to score at one stage against Barcelona to keep the pressure up on them, they had a lot of possession but we defended well and we had to score at one point — that was the key to why we lost in the end.

“There is always something positive we take from this game and we go to Manchester because we want to compete in the Premier League.

“We are in a good position and we don’t want to give that position up, it is a great chance to get focus back on the Premier League and forget what happened in the last 20 minutes and just focus on what went well.”


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