Wenger admits Arsenal 'were lucky'
Arsene Wenger admitted his Arsenal team were lucky still to be in the Champions League after being outplayed by Barcelona at the Emirates stadium in the quarter-final first leg tie. A Theo Walcott strike and a late Cesc Fabregas penalty gave the Gunners an unlikely lifeline after two goals from Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic appeared to have wrecked Wenger's Champions League dreams. But Fabregas will miss the return leg next Tuesday after picking up a suspension for a second yellow card as well as a suspected serious leg injury. Wenger's hopes of progressing were also hit after William Gallas limped off injured with a calf injury which could rule him out for the season while Andrey Arshavin was substituted, also with a calf problem. Wenger, however, admitted Arsenal were fortunate to be on level terms after a match which Barcelona dominated with 22 shots to six. "We played against a great team who were dominant in the early part of the game," admitted Wenger. "That's when we were lucky. We gave them too much room to play. But a lot of credit must go to the players who kept us in the tie. "They (Barcelona) are an outstanding team but most of their shots on goal were in the first part of game and at 2-0 down we had to throw everything forward." Wenger admitted it was a gamble to play Fabregas, who passed a late fitness test and also lamented the loss of Arshavin and Gallas. "You have to trust how the player feels and trust the medical people. He (Fabregas) said he was ready to play," said Wenger. "He has fantastic mental strength and didn't give up. The whole team were mentally unbelievable and we kept going and kept going. "Gallas has a calf strain and will be out for a while now. I took a gamble that didn't pay off. Yes I regret that now. Arshavin has also done his calf." Wenger, however, believes Arsenal can still progress to the semi-finals and admitted Walcott had given his side a lifeline with his goal after coming on after an hour in front of watching England manager Fabio Capello. Wenger said: "He (Walcott) had a huge impact when he came on. He has qualities which can be useful on a big pitch like the Nou Camp. We can still qualify. We have to study how we can win the ball back. When we did that we always looked dangerous against them. We have to go for it. "It would be a big achievement but we believe we can do it. In the first part of the game they could have picked us off. "But on the counter attack we can be dangerous. It was a great football match with two teams who went for it. It was an exceptional match." Meanwhile, Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola will be missing captain Carles Puyol from the second leg after he was sent off for bringing down Fabregas for the penalty. Defender Gerard Pique also picked up a suspension for a second yellow card. Guardiola, however, was proud of the footballing exhibition his team had given at the Emirates. He said: "We had a lot of chances and we had a lot of control. We are proud of our performance. We have a good chance to qualify for the next round. "We are happy with this result, but we could have killed the tie. We need to be more focused because they are a good team, otherwise we will go out." Guardiola, in particular, praised the two-goal performance of Ibrahimovic. He said: "Ibrahimovic had a great match and scored two beautiful goals. "We are happy to come here and let people watch our team and our game. We never played last year like we did today away. We moved the ball and didn't allow them to play. We created many chances. "We were better in certain aspects of the game but we need to be precise and good at the back. I don't think anyone can criticise us. We have given a good image of how football should be played. "The second leg will be much more complicated, not because they are going to close down and shut up shop. It is just going to be much more difficult." * PA
Published: April 1, 2010 04:00 AM