Arsenal salvages draw with Barcelona
Second-half substitute Theo Walcott scored in the 69th minute and Cesc Fabregas converted a penalty kick in the 85th as Arsenal rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie defending champion Barcelona 2-2 Wednesday night in the first leg of the European Champions League quarterfinals.
Barcelona pounced on Arsenal throughout the first half. Brilliant goalkeeping by Manuel Almunia and key blocks from defenders kept the first-leg match from being all over by the 15th minute.
"We were lucky because they had early chances and we gave them too much room to play," Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger said. "But if you have no mental strength, you can go down by five.
"We were lucky to be 0-0 at halftime."
Zlatan Ibrahimovic latched onto a long ball from by Gerard Pique about 30 seconds into the second half and lifted it over Almunia. Ibrahimovic made it 2-0 in the 59th after beating an offside trap.
Fabregas fears broken leg
Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas may have broken a leg while scoring the tying penalty kick during Wednesday night's Champions League match against defending champion Barcelona, an injury that could sideline him for the World Cup.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger started Fabregas after the Spanish midfielder passed a fitness test on a knee injury. Fabregas left Emirates Stadium on crutches after again getting hurt.
"We have to wait for tomorrow, but I hope I can wear the Arsenal shirt again this season," Fabregas said. "I fear the worst, which is that I have broken something. I do not think it is going to be good news, but still I hope there will be."
Fabregas said he thinks he damaged his fibula when he was fouled by Carles Puyol, then struck the penalty kick with great force.
Fabregas's injury came a day after an injury to Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney worried England. Rooney will miss two to four weeks because of a sprained ankle, a person close to Manchester United told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not been made.
Fabregas was preparing to shoot when his legs got tangled with those of Puyol, who was trying to challenge from behind. Swiss referee Massimo Busacca gave Puyol a red card and Fabregas got to his feet, then kicked the ball down the middle as goalkeeper Victor Valdes dived to his left.
Even if the injury is minor, Fabregas is suspended for next week's second leg after getting a yellow card for fouling Sergio Busquets. He is Arsenal's leading scorer this season with 19 goals in 36 matches.
"We came away from our place and played our style of football," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "We've still done a great thing and have a great chance of qualifying for the next round. We are happy with this result because it is a good result when you play away, but we could have killed the game. We have to be more focused or we could go out."
Walcott entered in the 66th, then scored three minutes later when he took a pass from Nicklas Bendtner and beat goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
"It was a fantastic game for the neutral, and to be involved in tonight was great," Walcott said. "I always knew if I could get on, I could show what I could do."
Arsenal continued to pile pressure on in the latter stages and it paid off when Fabregas was brought down by Puyol in the 84th.
"They keep the ball all the time," Fabregas said. "They play really beautiful football. It's very difficult to get the ball off of them. It was good for the team to come back.
"They are amazing," he added. "All you can do is just clap and enjoy it. But when you're on the pitch it is frustrating."
Arsenal's hopes alive
He said while he won't be able to play at Camp Nou, he believes Arsenal's hopes are still alive.
"I believe in my teammates," he said. "I think they have a great spirit, a great quality. I think they can do very well."
Barcelona exerted a brutal display of attacking football in the first half and Arsenal appeared to be in shock and completely outmatched.
The visitors had five clear chances in the first nine minutes and two of them in the first 70 seconds. Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen slid in at the last moment in front of the goal to cut out a low cross from Ibrahimovic in the first minute. A shot by Sergio Busquets was parried away seconds later by Almunia.
Lionel Messi cut past several Arsenal players and his shot from the edge of the area was blocked by Almunia. Ibrahimovic scuffed a shot over the bar moments later. The striker then made a blazing run from about the halfway line down the right, but blasted his shot into the side netting.
Almunia made three more spectacular saves from shots in front of the goal, in addition to blocks from Alex Song and Vermaelen in the space of one minute around the 15th.
Barcelona had around 75 per cent possession in the first 20 minutes.
Arsenal's first chance came in the 23rd when Samir Nasri cut the ball onto his right foot for his shot from the left to go just wide of the far post. A header by Abou Diaby in front of the goal was misdirected later in the half as Andrei Arshavin came off with a calf injury in the 27th and William Gallas had to be carried off in the 42nd after re-aggravating the calf injury that had sidelined him since Feb. 10.
Former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry made a late cameo appearance to a standing ovation from the home fans.