Arsenal's Champions League dream killed by Messi once more
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted his side's Champions League dreams are all-but over for another season as Barcelona romped to a 2-0 win at Emirates Stadium.
Lionel Messi scored twice with Barcelona's trio of magicians ultimately making the difference as they sealed a Champions League victory at Arsenal.
The holders had plenty of possession but did not have a shot on target in the first half - only for Messi to tuck away his first real chance with 20 minutes remaining before tucking away a late penalty to secure a decisive win.
Arsenal had a couple of decent chances of their own but have it all to do in the return leg at the Nou Camp on March 16 if they are to go beyond the round of 16 for the first time since 2010.
"Realistically it is very,very difficult, if not impossible," stated Wenger. "We have to go there and fight. We had the chances, we didn't score.
"Barcelona is a great team. We put a lot of energy in the game and technically we were very average.
"The regret I had was once we looked like we dominate the game, we give the goal away. Similar to Monaco last season, naive, and that is frustrating. When we looked like we could win the game, we just gave it away."
Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker was equally realistic about his side's hopes of a revival at the Nou Camp, as he told BT Sport:
Barcelona boasted 65% possession over the course of this first leg tie and had 16 attempts on goal compared to Arsenal's seven, but the different in class was evident in the finishing displayed by the brilliant Messi.
This defeat may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Arsenal as they look to win their first Premier League title in 12 years, with the extra time they will have to prepare for domestic matches likely to boost their hopes of success on home soil.
Yet this latest last-16 flop for Arsenal will spark yet more debate over Wenger's continued failure to make an impression in the Champions League, the one tournament that has eluded him in his illustrious career.