This story first appeared in the January 2015 edition of the Arsenal Magazine.
Journalist David Hytner and fan Aaron Kinchen address either side of this month's debate: Which Champions League game at Emirates Stadium is the best? This article first featured in the January issue of Arsenal Magazine.
Guardian football writer
Arsenal 2-2 Barcelona March 31, 2010
There is one game that stands out in my memory and it is the 2-2 draw against Barcelona in March 2010. I've been privileged to watch loads of engrossing Champions League games at the Emirates and, along with the highest-profile ones, there have been a couple of others that have stayed with me.
I loved the 2-0 win over Napoli, when Mesut Ozil made his home Champions League debut and just lit up the stadium for the first 45 minutes. People had been waiting for Ozil and he was incredible. I was also there when Nicolas Bendtner scored his hat-trick in the 5-0 win over Porto.
I can still remember the 'Super Nick' chants – and it was nice that the home crowd were able to recognise the living legend in their midst. But the 2-2 with Barcelona in the quarter-final, first-leg is one of my favourite games of all-time because it had absolutely everything – sumptuous quality, blood and guts – epitomised by Cesc Fabregas scoring the equalising penalty for Arsenal with a broken leg – and, above all, the feeling that you were witnessing something very special.
In the first-half, actually for the first hour, Barcelona were a joy to watch. It was as though their football was from another planet. They were mesmerising and it is still a mystery how the half-time scoreline was 0-0. Then Zlatan Ibrahimovic got his two goals early in the second-half. I remember how Barcelona had put him up the night before at the press conference and he was asked about his poor record against English teams.
Before the game, it was Played 10; Won 0, Scored 0. He said that he had nothing to prove to anybody but when he ran towards the bench to celebrate one of his goals, I think he knew that he had silenced a few people. Barcelona were so good that they could afford to leave Thierry Henry on the bench.
When the Arsenal support saw their club's record scorer starting only as a substitute, I think they probably feared that they were in for a long night. That's how it looked for quite a while. But one of the features of the evening was the sheer guts that Arsenal showed to come back.
The club's traditional role felt as though it was reversed. It was Barcelona who played the beautiful game and Arsenal who showed the courage to tough it out. When Fabregas equalised, it was the loudest I can remember hearing the stadium. It was simply an epic occasion.
A lifelong Gooner from a family of Arsenal supporters dating back more than 100 years
Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona February 16, 2011
I agree with David in that the best game was when Arsenal played against Barcelona, but my favourite has to be our 2-1 win in February 2011, when Jack Wilshere played out of his skin against Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.
For me, this edges it over the 2-2 draw from 2010 because we actually beat the best team in the world at the time. Pep Guardiola’s side were on their way to winning three La Liga titles in the row, had won the Champions League two years before and would eventually lift the trophy three months after we beat them at Emirates Stadium.
I remember the fans inside the stadium getting behind the team from the first whistle, roaring the boys on, and it was a night I will never forget personally because Wilshere, still only 19, made some of the best midfielders in the world look as though they were playing their first-ever Champions League game.
Despite Jack’s unbelievable performance, though, we found ourselves a goal down at half-time after David Villa beat Wojciech Szczesny. Only 12 months had passed since Barcelona knocked us out of the competition in the quarter-finals and it looked like the Spanish side were going to get the better of us again.
However, with 12 minutes left, Robin van Persie smashed in from an almost impossible angle and we started to match Barcelona at their own game. Give it five more minutes and we were outplaying them, and Wilshere was leading the charge with his heart on his sleeve.
The England midfielder combined with Cesc Fabregas to release Samir Nasri, who crossed for Andrei Arshavin to curl around two defenders and into the back of the net. I’ve never heard the Emirates louder than when that goal went in.
Everyone knew that we were playing against a side who had just set a new record of 16 consecutive wins in La Liga but we stood up to the challenge and staged an incredible comeback. It was a historic first-leg win for us but, like I said, I will always remember that night because of Wilshere’s performance.
I’d been following his development since the youth teams and seeing a teenage Arsenal fan tearing apart some of the world’s finest midfielders was enough to make the game live long in any Gooner’s memory.
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