By Chris Harris


That was the first word on Johan Djourou's lips as he reflected on a night that saw Arsenal beat Barcelona and his own credentials tested against the very best - Lionel Messi.

The little Argentine with the big reputation arrived at Emirates Stadium with the weapons to do Djourou and his team-mates serious damage and, for a while, that looked likely. Messi clipped one effort just wide, found the side-netting with another and saw a header chalked off by the linesman's flag.

But the final whistle eventually blew without Messi adding to the scorers and Djourou took plenty of pride in shutting him out.

"I think we made it hard for Messi," said Dourou. "It's not like he was always clear, one on one with the keeper. He always had somebody next to him, someone tackling him, and it's always difficult when you have someone under pressure.

"It was amazing [to play against him]. For a defender to test your skill against the best, to play against the kind of player that can make the difference, it was amazing. Barcelona always try to find solutions on the pitch so it is down to you to make it as hard as possible for them. I think we did that well tonight.

"We will take confidence [from stopping Messi]. That's a big boost to go away with. It will be a different game [in the Nou Camp] so we need to show the same focus and have good communication at the back like we did tonight.

"But Barcelona have so many talented players who can make a difference so it will be a tough, tough game. It is not just going to be Lionel Messi, they have other players like Iniesta and Pedro who can make the difference. We have to be focused on everyone."

One man Djourou could not stop was David Villa, who sped through to score in the first half. But Arsenal seized the initiative after his departure in the second half and turned the first leg on its head with late goals from Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin.

It's the second time in two seasons that Barcelona have run out of steam at Emirates Stadium but Djourou is not sure whether Arsenal are necessarily a fitter side.

"I don't know, I'm not too sure about that," he said. "I am sure they have great fitness because they show it in La Liga. It's very difficult to play your normal game against them. They play the ball so well, they move it around, it makes it very difficult.

"For a defender it's the hardest game you have to play because you run so much, they make you go forwards, backwards, sideways, you just have to keep your head and I think the team did that fantastically and showed amazing character.

"I just think that we wanted it so much. This team can really achieve something great this year and that's what we are showing. Even when we are down and losing, the character is still there and we just want to go until the final whistle."

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
17 Feb 2011