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Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger and FC Barcelona counterpart Josep Guardiola were united in praise after their sides' meeting in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 lived up to its high billing. "Special" and "fantastic" were among their superlatives after the Gunners' 2-1 win, but they stressed this is merely half-time ahead of the second leg in Spain on 8 March. Indeed, the unflinching Guardiola retains "a lot of faith" in his players.
Arsène Wenger, Arsenal manager
It was one of those special nights and we needed to be a special team. The game promised a lot and it didn't disappoint. It was a game between two special teams in my opinion. We suffered at times but we never gave up and kept mentally strong. I feel when you play Barcelona, you are always on the border of collapsing against them because you can be punished severely for mental mistakes. It's still open – it's exciting.
It's open, we of course will go to Camp Nou and play our game again because we cannot go there and defend, especially us. It's exciting and confidence-wise we will grow because we won tonight. But we will go and give our best. You have seen similar actions on both sides and the [second] goal was fantastic. Overall it was a great night for all our fans.
Josep Guardiola, Barcelona coach
It was a fantastic game with chances for both teams. Arsenal are always a good side – they are tough and strong.
We dominated and more or less controlled the game. It's a pity that we lost but these things happen in football. We know how good Arsenal are and just how well they can play on the counterattack. This is European competition and we are only too aware of the high level of the opponents at this stage. I admire Arsenal's style.
We created more chances than in the first leg last year, but they are very good when they press; they have the ability to find the gaps. They've been setting an example for years now. I felt we competed well and were better than in previous Champions League away games against Stuttgart or Lyon, for example.
Now we have to think about turning this around in the second leg with the help of our supporters. I have a lot of faith in my players so let's see how we get on. It was important to score an away goal and we did that tonight. We're without [the suspended Gerard] Piqué for the second leg so we hope that [Carles] Puyol will have recovered from injury by then.
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