Barca were held at bay in the first half by a disciplined and assertive Arsenal side at the Emirates Stadium.
But it unravelled for the hosts in the second half in the face of unwithering pressure by a typically uncontainable Barcelona. Lionel Messi coolly slotted in their first goal on 71 minutes, taking the final touch and scoring after some fine link-up play by Luis Suarez and Neymar on the counter-attack.
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He comfortably converted a spot-kick for Barca’s second strike twelve minutes later, putting his side well on track to the quarter-finals.
Luis Enrique acknowledged his side’s unpralleled adaptability in the aftermath, but also cautioned against writing Arsenal off just yet.
“We managed to deal with Arsenal’s pressure really well. We are one of the best clubs in the world when it comes to dealing with a tight defence,” he said.
“We have had a really high defensive level. Arsenal had players to do us a lot of harm, but we were up to the challenge of all the dangers they could present us.”
The Barcelona manager added that the challenge presented in the first half only spurred his side on.
“Everyone who knows about football knows you need a first half like this in order to have a second like the one we had. Arsenal are very good at helping each other collectively and we needed a lot of possession of the ball.
“My players individually performed perfectly. The score is really good but nothing is decided yet.
“We will have to play really well in front of our own crowd to go through,” he said.
The result was Barcelona’s 33rd consecutive unbeaten match, as they continue on course to retain the European Cup.
It was, however, for Arsenal another disappointment at this stage of the Champions League, where they have ben eliminated in five successive seasons since losing to Bacelona 4-3 on aggregate on 2011.
The result had Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger resigned to the prospect of a sixth straight last-16 ouster.
“Barcelona are certainly through, 95 per cent, but we want to go there and play,” he said.
“We are Arsenal Football Club and we will not go there to just have no chance.
“They are better than us, everybody knows that, but we could have won the game if we kept the discipline until the end.”
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