Well that’s the Champions League done with for another year but I don’t think anyone could have any complaints about going out. It nice to not be here still thinking about dodgy referee decisions, missed sitters or offsides but instead as it should be – just in awe of a great football performance.
Going into the game whatever chance we had was gradually decreasing every day. I was sitting in a bar on my first day in Barcelona when Sky Sports News broke the news that Alex Song was unavailable for the game and Sol Campbell was a doubt. That was quite unsettling, we were relying on one or both of them really and in the end we had to do with out either. Then the morning of the game I checked Arsenal.com and joked, “Right, lets see who else is injured shall we?” Before seeing the headline: ‘Rosicky rated as 50:50’. It was becoming a bit of a joke really but it never really got me that worried; we were always going to be the underdogs, I was just there to enjoy the atmosphere and the game.
We all know what happened in the match so I think you’d rather me tell you about the trip to Barcelona rather than go into detail what went wrong in the game. My journey started at 8 o’clock Sunday morning, with a coach out of London Victoria heading for Lille. My voice was still hoarse from celebrating Bendtner’s last minute winner against Wolves but it was already time to look forward to Barcelona. I
had a feeling was hoping that the bus ride would be a 27-hour party to Barcelona, packed with Gooners in full voice all the way. Instead it was a cramped and stuffy coach with only four other Arsenal fans on including myself and Indie Dave. I had to sit next to some Belgian bloke who couldn’t comprehend a train that went underneath the Channel Tunnel and had to assure him that it was perfectly safe and normal.
Not long after crossing the Channel we were in Lille where there was a two hour break for a bit of lunch before catching a connecting bus to Barcelona. “That wasn’t too bad,” I thought, “This coach journey’s going to be a piece of piss.” Well we were only 6 hours in and now was the killer part of the journey, the overnight bus that reached Barcelona at 10 o’clock the following morning. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t fun but the sense of relief when we finally got there you wouldn’t get if you flew so in that case it was worth it!
We eventually found the hotel but there was no time to rest, we were back out into town after a traditional McDonalds tapas. We walked around the Ramblas and there didn’t seem to be any other Gooners around there either. Maybe we were in the wrong place or maybe we were just early. We had been advised to avoid bars around the Ramblas and the English/Irish themed pubs so we ended up in some Irish Bar just off the Ramblas where they wanted £6.50 a Guinness. Oh well.
We arranged to meet a few other Arseblog forumers there and this is when we found out about Alex Song – we needed to drown our sorrows somewhere a little cheaper and later that night we found this great little underground bar called L’Ovella Negra (The Black Sheep) where a few pints were drunk and then a couple of Mojitos in some cocktail bar around the corner that were a little more expensive but fucking hell they hit you straight away!
The Tuesday night was a pretty good one and we definitely felt it the morning of the game but it was time to get back on it again. By now there were a lot more Gooners in Barcelona and we met up with Arseblogger and some of the other guys of the forum who’d flown in that morning. We’d all been told to go to some Arsenal Fan Camp down on the pier and after a few beers in The Black Sheep we decided to head down but it was absolutely miles away. We settled for some bar on the water front and sat outside in the sun. Couldn’t really ask for more to be honest and before we knew it, it was time to make our way to the Stadium.
There was singing on the tubes to the ground and when we reached the West part of the town where stadium was every bar was packed out with red and white. We had our final pre-match pint and then it was off to the ground.
From the outside it wasn’t that impressive (well I guess we’re used to the Grove) and a little ugly to be honest. “Are you Brent Cross in disguise?!” started up which was pretty funny but I was told that the stadium had been build into the ground so it looked smaller than it was from the outside. We made it round to our entrance and started the take the stairs to the very top of the stadium; fucking hell it was a long way. Once we’d finally made it to the very top, we had no complaints out the ground, it’s pretty incredible to be honest with you.
We put up the ‘Do It For Aaron’ banner, which you could see briefly on Sky before the game and took out spot in the very two back rows in the corner. I was in the back row and it’s stupidly high from up there! Also there’s no roof which is a bit strange and you could see over the edge back down to outside the ground before the police moved you away and it was fucking scary. It’s an absolutely huge ground and one I’ve always wanted to go and see a game at.
The players were like little ants on the pitch but you could just about make out who was who. It was by no means our best starting XI but we were just going to have to make do and pray Silvestre had the game of his Arsenal career. Barca started the way they left off in the first leg playing some great football and immediately showing who was boss but we did see a little more of the ball in those opening stages than we did in the first leg. We were working hard which is all we could do really with so many of our stars out and it was our closing down and interceptions that lead to the first goal.
Diaby nicked the ball off home side while they were pressing forward and Walcott was sent charging down the right and he had Bendtner open in support. Theo laid it on a plate for him and he almost missed it but before I could get pissed off Nick had recovered and stuck it in the back of the net. If I said it went fucking mental up there then that would be a huge understatement. When that goal went in you might’ve thought we’d won the game the way people were jumping around and screaming. My foot it still killing me from when I must’ve jumped up and forgot about landing properly 100 times and I smacked my head on the concrete from falling back and forgetting I was in the last row.
For three minutes we were winning in the Nou Camp and for three minutes let me assure you we made the most of it! Messi’s determination and one mistake in defence meant it was soon 1-1 and the celebrations stopped. We weren’t silenced, only maybe by the finish briefly but we carried on signing. 1-1 was after all better than 0-0.
At half time we were 3-1 down, but not out. There was a chance early on in the first half when Diaby was driving forward and had the choice of picking out Walcott or Bendtner and went for the latter which was definitely the wrong option. Theo would’ve been through on goal and if he’d scored there it might’ve been a completely different story. There was no point in looking back to that now though, we needed two more goals in the second half to go through and it didn’t seem impossible. We kept on believing but as the half went on it seemed less and less likely to happen. Every attack I seemed to say to myself, “Right if we score this one then we’re right in it.” It never happened though and in the end it took Messi’s 4th in the 87th minute to come to terms with the fact that we were out.
It would’ve been a completely different game if we’d had Gallas, Song, Fabregas and van Persie playing but that’s just our luck, hopefully we get to play them again with a fully fit squad. However you can’t use our injuries as an excuse, Barcelona had vital players out too; they were simply the better side.
We were held in the ground for an hour or so after the final whistle and there were a lot of mixed emotions. I saw arguments, people with their head in their hands, singing, flag-waving, joking, conversation and silence. It was a surreal place to be and it got a little weirder when an impromptu paper aeroplane competition started with one entry nearly making it to the lower tier with much cheering for the travelling support!
Eventually we got out of there and heading back into town for more beers. We ended up back at The Black Sheep again until closing time where we were just in awe of Messi and spoke about Arsenal trips over the years. Let me just say it was very hard to get out of bed the following morning to check out of the hotel!
We had little wonder around town the next day, went down to the beach and back to the pier and stuff, had a nice paella for lunch there before ending up back at that sunny bar on the on harbour we were at before the game the day before. Me and Indie Dave had to catch the 5:00pm coach out of Barcelona to Lille so we said our goodbyes and looked forward to the epic journey ahead. It was a much nicer coach to Lille this one and to be honest we were just exhausted from everything and got a lot more sleep on the way back. The coach from Lille to London the next morning was a bit horrible on a whole the 27 hours back was a lot easier than the 27 hours out there I thought.
We went the long way around but it was still a brilliant trip. The mad thing was that I wouldn’t mind doing that coach again! It’s the sort of thing I’d only do for football though and if it meant costing half the price then why not, it makes it more of an adventure! I’ve had a bit of grief about the result from some people but they just don’t’ really know what it’s like to go on a European away trip so I’ll just ignore them. The result could’ve gone either way and I still would’ve had a great time in Barcelona with all the Gooners. The atmosphere was amazing out there and I have absolutely not one regret about going. It’s what being an Arsenal fan is all about really and instead of being all doom and gloom and complaining about the outcome I was happy that I was there to see us play in the Nou Camp and had a brilliant trip in the process.
Coming out of the stadium on Wednesday night I was already looking forward to the next game and sorted myself out a ticket for Spurs away. That’s not until Wednesday now, we’ve got a nice little weekend off which might not be such a bad thing you know. Build up to the North London derby to come over the next few days.
I feel so proud to be a Gooner at the moment, well done if you read all of that and I hope you enjoyed hearing about my trip. I know not everyone can do this sort of thing so I’d thought you fill you in! Thanks for reading.