Manuel Almunia used to be a Barcelona fan but he is not anymore.

The Spanish keeper, 29 on Friday, began Wednesday's Champions League Final on the bench as Arsenal took on his boyhood team at the Stade de France. However he would be called into action after just 18 minutes when Jens Lehmann was dismissed.

Almunia did as much as anyone to preserve Arsenal's narrow 1-0 advantage after that, most notably when he tipped a Samuel Eto'o shot onto the woodwork in first-half injury time. However the Cameroon striker beat him at the near post in the 76th minute and soon afterwards Juliano Belletti's drive across goal cannoned in off his foot to give the Catalan side the trophy.

"When I was young I was a supporter of Barcelona but not now," said Almunia afterwards. "Today Barcelona is a bad team for me.

 "I am really upset because we had to victory in our hands. They are a great team but we were playing against them with 10 players. If you play 45 minutes like that, it is possible but for almost 80 minutes it is very difficult.

"Still the time was going past during the game and we were defending well. Barcelona were not making too many opportunities either. But in the last part of the game they attacked very well. The rain helped Barcelona because the pitch was very wet and that allowed them to play the ball very quickly. The last part of the game was difficult for us."

That was when Almunia was beaten twice in quick succession

"Eto'o made a move to shoot to the other post," said the former Celta Vigo stopper." I made a little movement and he changed his opinion at the last spilt second.

"[For the second] Belletti ran into the area and hit the ball very hard. I almost saved it but unluckily I did not.

"Goalkeepers always think they can save all the balls. You are always a little bit selfish like that. At that moment I feel I could have save it but you have to be lucky as well. It was very close to me but whether you save or not sometimes depends on only a little thing."

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18 May 2006