FC Barcelona team-mates Thierry Henry and Daniel Alves united in praise of a pulsating match after their UEFA Champions League quarter-final against Arsenal FC more than lived up to its star billing.
Zlatan Ibrahimović's second-half brace rewarded the visitors' dominance, but the Gunners clawed their way back into the match thanks to substitute Theo Walcott before captain Cesc Fàbregas converted a late penalty after being fouled by Carles Puyol – an offence for which Puyol was red-carded, leaving him suspended for Tuesday's second leg at the Camp Nou.
"Whether you're a supporter of Arsenal or Barcelona, it was, all the same, a great match to enjoy, as people often expect from the Champions League," said striker Henry, a 77th-minute substitute. "It was a beautiful match," right-back Alves concurred, "with two teams who put great importance on passing the ball. In the end we've seen a great game."
Despite losing their lead, Henry said the Barcelona dressing room were not displeased with the result. "A draw away from home is always a good result in the Champions League," said the French international. "If we analyse the match, we started well of course but they came back. It's 90 minutes and you have to go to the end. We can talk about [losing the lead] but you can't hide the fact that 2-2 away from home is a good result."
Alves, however, acknowledged a tinge of disappointment at the outcome. "I think we deserved something more out of the game," said the Brazilian international. "But football's like that. We played a great match, but we still have a good result to take back and hopefully qualify with at home." Indeed, the 26-year-old regards Barça's away goals as likely keys to the tie. "Scoring away from home is very important," he said. "Hopefully we can play to the same level in the home leg."
Fittingly, the last word went to Henry, who had returned to face his former club for the first time since his 2007 departure from north London. Having received a rapturous reception from the Arsenal fans, the 32-year-old said: "It touched me greatly – as you could see at the end, it was a very special moment for me." The Gunners' all-time record scorer added: "I hoped I would be well received, but it was fantastic. It was a bit strange playing against Arsenal, but football's like that sometimes."
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