The Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger acknowledged Barcelona's four-goal hero Lionel Messi was the difference on the night as his side crashed out of the Champions League following a 4-1 defeat at Camp Nou. Arsenal went ahead through Nicklas Bendtner early on to take the lead in the tie for the first time, but the Gunners' joy was short-lived as Messi struck a brilliant first-half hat-trick, before compounding the Londoners' misery with a fourth late on. Wenger likened Barca's brilliant Argentinian winger to a computer creation, saying: "He's like a PlayStation. I think he can take advantage of every mistake you make. Barcelona are a very good side but of course they have Messi who can make the difference at any moment in the game."
Wenger believes the 22 year-old can go on to become one of the great players of all-time. He added: "He is very young but he can achieve a lot ? there are not many players who can score four goals like he did. "He has six or seven great years ahead of him and he can become unbelievable ? touch wood nothing happens to him." Wenger was upbeat despite Arsenal's quarter-final exit, but the Frenchman is concerned this result will have a detrimental effect on his side's Premier League title aspirations.
"Of course you worry because it's a big disappointment ? we have to recover quickly to fight for the Premier League, and focus completely now on that," he said. "It seems a very empty future (after a defeat like this). It's a big disappointment but we have to ready for the next game." Arsenal's next match is a trip to White Hart Lane for the north London derby next Wednesday and Wenger believes the prospect of facing local rivals Tottenham could give his players the lift they need following last night's defeat. "It's a place where we have done well (in the past) and it forces you to focus straight away because it's a derby," he said. The Barca coach Pep Guardiola was equal in praising his match-winning forward.
"The good thing is about Messi is that tomorrow he will get up and look for the affection of his people and his teammates," he said. "I like the love he has for football and his anonymous character." "Leo was brilliant and he was decisive tonight. You have to see it ? it is not something you can describe because you have to see it to believe it." The former Barcelona captain claimed the whole club deserved praise following another passage to the semi-finals of Europe's premier club competition. "All the players were brilliant and I think it's a great achievement to be in the semi-finals again because this competition is so difficult," he said.
"I congratulate the team and beyond that, the club, because in five years we have played four Champions League semi-finals and that speaks highly of the club. Messi's brilliance aside, Guardiola believes the win over Arsenal was fully deserved. "We had more possession than them, though the game was dangerous, but when we equalised we calmed down and we were very aggressive in defence," he added. * Agencies