Guardiola Hails Brilliant Barcelona


Pep Guardiola described Barcelona's supremely dominant first-half performance against Arsenal as 'the best 45 minutes' the Catalans have produced during his reign.

A thrilling encounter ended 2-2 at Emirates Stadium in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal, but Manuel Almunia had to be at his best in the first half to deny, amongst others, Xavi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Barcelona enjoyed 71 per cent possession and produced a succession of excellent chances.

Two goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic then put the visitors in firm control but Arsenal responded when Theo Walcott beat Victor Valdes following his introduction as a substitute and Cesc Fabregas scored a penalty to make it 2-2.

Despite seeing his side loosen their grip on the tie, Guardiola could only admire the flowing football that Barcelona, inspired by midfield playmaker Xavi, produced against an Arsenal side renowned for their own aesthetic quality.

'Last season we won many prizes, but never played away in the Champions League like we did here,' Guardiola said. 'We took the ball and never allowed them to play.

'It was the best 45 minutes since I became a coach. Against Bayern Munich [in the Champions League quarter-final] last season we had four chances and scored four goals, but this was the best 45 minutes my team have played.

'We've given a good image of how football should be played and I'm proud of my team. My team's performance was good and I will sleep okay. We created many chances and it's just a pity because we had a chance to take a bigger step towards the semifinal.

'We could have won, but could have lost as well. But everyone who came to the stadium and watched the game will have enjoyed it, which is the point. We play football because we want to give happiness to people.'