On This Day: Lionel Messi hits four as Barcelona hammer Arsenal
The match that finally determined who was the greatest player of his generation – it’s Bendtner vs. Messi.
Image courtesy of WellOffside.com
In hindsight, 2-2 at home against Barcelona seems like a poor result for a team hoping to progress. Denying them victory seems an achievement in itself, but winning at the Camp Nou! Arsenal! It’s unheard of. But the past is a foreign land – that game, just two years ago, featured Arsenal roaring back from two goals down thanks to the goalkeeping heroics of Manuel Almunia and the introduction of Theo Walcott sending the Catalans running scared.
Arsenal, however, were on one of their unusual runs of imperious form that have typified the latter-day Wenger regime as much as the interspersing humiliations. Arsene’s boys were on a fine run of form, having won seven of their last eight games, the only blip being a draw to the then-solid Birmingham City, and were just three points behind first-placed Chelsea, and one behind Manchester United. In the previous round, they had overcome an away loss to Porto by thrashing them 5-0 at the Emirates.
So, particularly with the manner of their comeback at the Emirates, there seemed a vague possibility that Arsenal might be able to do it. The belief increased tenfold when, after 18 shaky minutes, the scoring was opened by one N. Bendtner, scrambling home an early goal that sent the Arsenal fans into delirium.
However, there were two greatest players of their generation on the pitch that day, and the Argentinian one had not yet warmed up. What happened next is best told through the medium of moving pictures – sit back and enjoy one of his many truly virtuoso performances, the most effortless single-handed destruction of a team in a long time.
Barcelona’s progression, of course, set up the audition for one J.Mourinho, who was to perform the job of all jobs in somehow, through luck as much as judgement, prevailing with his Internazionale rabble in a tight contest. That was enough to confirm he was the man for the Real Madrid job, and he duly left before all Inter’s chickens came home to roost.
As for Arsenal, they endured a miserable end to the season, picking up a solitary point from their next four games, including excruciating defeats to the emerging Tottenham (who would finish fourth that season, thanks to that victory and Arsenal’s subsequent draw against Manchester City), as well as a shocking capitulation at Wigan and the very worst kind of ‘typical Arsenal’ defeat to Wenger’s perennial nemesis Sam Allardyce at Blackburn. An angry walloping of Fulham on the final day of the season was all that Arsenal could do to vent their frustration as United and the champions, Chelsea, stormed clear. Another year without a trophy, and the gap between Arsenal and a credible title challenge grew yet again…