By Chris Harris at the Stade de France
Arsenal were 14 minutes from being crowned European champions on Wednesday night, but two late strikes from Barcelona saw their hopes of glory turn to glorious failure.
Nonetheless, Arsène Wenger's team emerged with great credit after shrugging off Jens Lehmann's early sending off to take a suprise lead and keep the La Liga champions at bay until the closing stages. Here's how Arsenal fared, player by player.
The unluckiest man in the Stade de France. Without Lehmann's heroic penalty save from Juan Roman Riquelme at El Madrigal, Arsenal might not have even got to Paris, but his night was cut cruelly short on this occasion. Lehmann looked perfectly comfortable in the early stages, dealing with well-hit shots from Giuly and Deco, but he was sent off after bringing down Eto'o just outside the box in the 18th minute. Referee Terje Hauge applied the letter of the law, but you had to feel sorry for the German No 1.
Given a tough night by an inspired Giuly but came through after a difficult start to the match. The Frenchman wriggled clear of Ashley in the eighth minute but failed to take advantage, and after that the England man got the better of their personal duel. A superbly-timed challenge thwarted Giuly as he looked to convert Ronaldinho's through-ball and a string of crunching challenges kept Giuly at bay. Unable to get forward as he would have liked - especially after Lehmann's red card - but showed he is getting back to his best after that long lay-off.
Deprived hero status after disallowed strikes for England at World Cup 98 and Euro 2004, Sol was finally allowed to celebrate a vital, towering header when he soared to nod Henry's free kick past a helpless Valdes eight minutes before the interval. At the other end he was a rock alongside Toure, fully justifying his inclusion with a string of vital interventions as Ronaldinho, Giuly, Eto'o and Larsson buzzed menacingly around the Arsenal box. Rallied the side after Lehmann's red card and, after a difficult season, will look back on this day with pride.
The bedrock of Arsenal's record-breaking run of clean sheets in Europe was stretched to the limit but held things together at the back until the last 14 minutes. An early clatter into Edmilson announced Kolo's arrival in the match and he was soon making vital interceptions as Barca's clever interplay threatened to carve Arsenal open. Three vital stops in first-half stoppage time kept the Gunners' noses in front as Ronaldinho probed and prompted. Kolo was forced back even deeper after the break and seemed to have weathered the storm when Barca finally found a way through.
Often sublime, sometimes ridiculous. Manu's intent was clear in the opening minutes as he charged forward to attack Barca left-back Van Bronckhorst. The Ivorian very nearly set up a goal for Henry with a dinked cross and won the free kick from which Henry picked out Campbell for the opening goal. But most of the time Manu had his hands full with Eto'o, operating on the left flank in an attempt to restrict the right back's overlaps. A careless late lunge earned the Ivorian a yellow card and he even trod on the ball at one point. Eto'o finally got the better of Manu when he ghosted in behind him to score the equaliser.
When the red card was flashed at Lehmann after 18 minutes, it spelled the end of Robert's night too. The Frenchman was sacrificed from Arsenal's midfield as Manuel Almunia took his place between the posts. It brought to a close a promising cameo for Robert. He looked assured on the ball in the early stages and got ahead of the Barca back four on the quarter-hour, only for Henry to misplace his attempted pass into the box.
His role was always likely to be a defensive one with Ronaldinho and Deco roaming in the space in front of Arsenal's back four. As ever, Gilberto provided vital protection for Toure, Campbell and company. Made a vital header to stop Ronaldinho's cross reaching Giuly in the first half but gave the ball away to allow Deco a sight of goal. Never stopped working as Arsenal protected their lead after the break but could do nothing to stop Barca's runners finding space for those two goals.
Took an early grip on midfield, finding space despite the attentions of Van Bommel and Edmilson. But his influence understandably waned after Lehmann was sent off. Pires' withdrawal and Barca's numerical advantage forced Cesc into a more withdrawn role and his early creativity was replaced by tireless tracking. Kept the ball well to take the heat off Arsenal, particularly in the second half, and had a crack at goal before his tired legs were replaced by Mathieu Flamini.
The plan would have been to link up with Manu Eboue and put pressure on Barca's left side, and a number of confident early touches suggested that Arsenal could prosper in that area. Instead, Alexander's night was transformed by Lehmann's red card. He tucked inside to compensate for Pires' withdrawal and worked tirelessly to close down the extra space in midfield and offer Eboue protection on the right. A constant outlet when Arsenal had the ball and put Henry through on goal with a slide-rule pass after 69 minutes.
A lionhearted effort by Freddie. One early sprint down the left flank set the tone for an energetic performance from the Swede, who did as much as anyone to atone for the loss of Robert Pires to Arsenal's midfield. Worked space for a shot late in the first half but saw his effort blocked. Looked capable of nicking a goal on the break in the second half and forced a fingertip save from Valdes after getting away from Oleguer in the 66th minute.
Arsenal's captain was just 14 minutes from getting his hands on the European Cup. It would have been just reward for another sterling performance as Arsenal's lone striker. Kept the Barca defence occupied and was at the hub of the Gunners' best moves. Forced two sharp saves from Valdes in the opening minutes before picking out Campbell's head for Arsenal's opener. Tracked back effectively and was unlucky to get booked for a tackle on Van Bommel, but will rue the chance he missed when one-on-one with Valdes seven minutes before Eto'o equalised.
Manuel Almunia (for Lehmann)
Called into action after Lehmann's red card and did his reputation no harm. Kicked uncertainly at first but kept Arsenal in front with a magnificent one-handed save from Eto'o after the Barca striker turned Campbell in first-half stoppage time. A good low stop from Iniesta followed early in the second half and Manuel's assured handling took the heat off as Barca kept pressing. Could do nothing about Eto'o's equaliser and unfortunate that Belletti's fierce shot ricocheted through his legs.
Mathieu Flamini (for Fabregas)
Replaced the tiring Fabregas and brought much-needed fresh legs to Arsenal's midfield, but was unable to get enough time on the ball to make a difference after Barca struck twice in quick succession.
Jose Antonio Reyes (for Hleb)
Fresh legs gave Arsenal a glimmer of hope of forcing extra time but, in truth, he was on too late to make an impact as Barcelona played down the clock.
Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 17 May 2006