Barcelona boss Luis Enrique liked 'everything' in victory at Arsenal
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said his team's possession play in the first half allowed them to find spaces after the break and win 2-0 in Tuesday evening's Champions League last-16 first leg at Arsenal.
Barca had dominated for long spells but the game was still scoreless deep in the second half when Arsenal were caught on the break as Luis Suarez and Neymar combined to help Messi opening the scoring on 71 minutes.
The Argentine then made it 2-0 late on from the spot after he was fouled by Mathieu Flamini in the midfielder's first contribution after entering as a substitute.
Suarez and Neymar also missed clear late chances to make things worse for Arsenal, and the Blaugrana coach told his postgame news conference that his team had controlled the game and knew their work would pay off with more opportunities late on.
"What I most liked was everything, the whole game we played," Luis Enrique said. "From the start, our finishing, how we tired them out by using the ball in the first half.
"Everyone who knows anything about football knows that you need a first half like this, so that in the second half you can do that.
"They were tired out from supporting each other. We could open spaces and make chances.
"Our players were spectacular, and we deserved to win the game. So I am very happy with everything, there was nothing about the performance I didn't like."
No team has ever gone through after losing 2-0 at home in European Cup or Champions League first leg since away goals were introduced, but Luis Enrique insisted the tie was not finished.
"It is a great result, but the tie is not over yet," he said. "We will need to play a great game at home, in front of our fans, to be sure of going through."
While Arsenal had a clear opportunities in each half through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud, Luis Enrique said he was content with how his side had dealt with the Gunners' attacking threat.
"We also did very well stopping them from countering on us," he said. "We defended very well, watching [Mesut] Ozil and his ability between the lines. We kept close to [Olivier] Giroud and Alexis [Sanchez], and [Theo] Walcott when he entered.
"We were very good, pressing in every moment, helping each other out. They created very little danger."
Barca centre-back Gerard Pique will miss the second leg at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, March 16, after being booked for taking out Danny Welbeck late on.
"It was not deliberate, anyone who saw how it happened knows that," Luis Enrique said when asked if the foul had been planned so the key defender would be free for the quarterfinals.
Sergio Busquets admitted on Catalan TV after the game that he had played much of the game in pain from a hip problem picked up during the first half. But Luis Enrique said he had asked the midfielder to play through the pain as he is so important to how Barca play.
"Busquets is a great player -- if he can walk I don't change him," the manager said. "He said he needed to come off, I asked him to stay until half-time. He is a key player for us.
"He said he could play on, there was no risk. He is very important for us. And the players know themselves if they need to come off."