Jordi Vinyals and Steve Gatting both said their players were given an unforgettable footballing lesson after Arsenal FC and FC Barcelona sides played out a thrilling quarter-final.
Arsenal twice came from behind in a match that included missed penalties for both teams and a 59th-minute red card for Gunners keeper Deyan Iliev, before a late flurry of goals took the Catalan side through to the semi-finals in Nyon on 11 April. While pointing out a few things to work on, Vinyals and Gatting highlighted plenty of positives – not least the UEFA Youth League itself.
Jordi Vinyals, Barcelona coach
We knew about the difficulties, and we knew Arsenal were a great team with great players in their ranks. We started very nervously, losing a lot of possession – we didn't find our game. But in the second half the match was more like we as a team want to play. Then we were better than them, and made it through.
I am surprised about how we played in the first half, with doubt and little confidence – it seemed like the ball wasn't on our side. But this team is capable of getting out of that, believing in themselves and turning things around. It could have ended 2-2, leading to a penalty shoot-out, but we managed to get a result.
The players have been learning in this competition – they have been learning how to deal with playing an important match during the week and then a domestic league match at the weekend. We have been in different countries, playing different teams with different cultures, so I think we have all broadened our horizons through this competition.
We will enjoy this, then we travel to Mallorca – we have an important match at the weekend. And then we will get ready for our next task against Schalke [in the semi-final]. I hope for a little bit of magic and joy.
Steve Gatting, Arsenal manager
It wasn't a 4-2 game. We played some very good football in the first 20 minutes, dominated possession and had the best chances. Credit to Barcelona – they came back into it, scored the first goal. We pulled one back before half-time, which helped us. And then in the second half, again, missed chances, poor decisions at the back by us, and though we pulled it back to 2-2 with ten men, we didn't have quite enough to hold out.
The boys are disappointed, because they played so well out there. It's not until you play some of the best teams in Europe at this stage of the competition that you do get punished if you are a bit naive defensively. We passed the ball very well, created chances, good movement, good technical skills. We showed a lot of character in coming back twice when we were down, but didn't quite have enough about us to see it through.
This has been a learning curve for the boys. Every team you play in this competition is slightly different, with a different style, giving you different problems. It's different to the English U21, U19, U18 league the boys play in now. It gives the boys a lot of education towards different styles of play. It has been a very good experience.
Today we said we are going to try and press Barcelona. At the start it worked; now we need to have a plan B for when it doesn't. The boys need to understand the times to press and the times not to press. That is a learning curve for me and obviously the players as well.
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