By Chris Harris

Barcelona’s first half-hour of football at Emirates Stadium last season was the best Arsène Wenger has faced as a manager.

Arsenal’s clash with the Catalan giants last March was billed as a match-up between the planet’s two finest footballing sides. But for most of the first half, the home side were chasing shadows.

Barcelona carved out chance after chance and would have been out of sight were it not for the heroics of Manuel Almunia in goal. Ultimately, two second-half goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave the visitors a deserved advantage before Arsenal hit back to draw 2-2.

As he prepared for Wednesday’s renewal at the Emirates, Wenger found himself purring about Barca’s first-half brilliance – although he still regrets not winning the game.

“It was the best I have played against, personally in the first 30 minutes,” said the Frenchman.

“Despite all that, I have regrets because we finished the game 2-2.  I think we could have won the game if we had been a bit more focused in the first ten minutes of the second half.

“We conceded two goals at a moment where we were not under pressure and we were not at all in a position where we needed to concede these two goals.

“If we had conceded in the first 20 minutes I would have said we deserved them, we deserved more than two. But after that you had regrets for not having won the game.

“It will be a very interesting test [on Wednesday], we are waiting passionately for it.”

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12 Feb 2011