Arsenal 0-2 Barcelona: Messi guns down untidy Gunners

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (2R) scores his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 1st leg football match between Arsenal and Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium in London on February 23, 2016. / AFP / ADRIAN DENNIS

Lionel Messi scored twice to help Barcelona to a comfortable 2-0 away win over Arsenal at the Emirates on Tuesday night as the Catalans have now taken a first leg advantage in their quest for a quarter final spot in the ongoing 2015/16 UEFA Champions League season.

Arsenal face an uphill battle to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League after losing the first leg of their last-16 clash to Barcelona at Emirates Stadium.

Lionel Messi scored twice in the second half to put the Gunners in an unenviable position against the holders and the bookies’ favourites to retain their trophy.

The challenge facing the Gunners prior to kick off was writ large: Barcelona were unbeaten in their previous 32 games, had scored 113 times, conceded just 37 and had not lost in the Champions League this season.

But, as underdogs, Wenger insisted his side would be liberated by the lack of pressure on their shoulders and also boosted by the knowledge that they beaten their illustrious opponents at Emirates Stadium five years earlier.

Arsène Wenger’s side had performed admirably throughout an evenly-contested first half, hassling their vaunted opponents into mistakes and isolating their famed front three.

Both Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had early chances, while the defensive resolve of the midfield and backline kept Barca opportunities to a minimum.

The best of them came on the stroke of half time as Luis Suarez flashed a header across the face of goal, although Petr Cech was called into action after the restart to deny Neymar with a sprawling save.

But Arsenal refused to be cowed, and Giroud nearly lifted the roof off the Emirates when his towering header was clawed away by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

But finally the deadlock was broken as Luis Enrique’s side broke at speed through Suarez, who found Messi in the area and the Argentinean slotted home.

The four-time Ballon d’Or winner claimed his second as he converted from the penalty spot after being taken down in the area by Mathieu Flamini.

The result now hands Wenger’s men  almighty task to progress when they visit the Nou Camp for the second leg next month.