Arsene Wenger watched his Arsenal side come from behind to score a famous UEFA Champions League victory over Barcelona and then declared the Spanish champions favourites to progress to the quarter-finals.
The Frenchman was delighted with the heart his players showed in holding firm under significant pressure at 1-0 down, before turning the first leg on its head with strikes from Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin securing a 2-1 win. Yet, having experienced a 4-1 second-leg defeat to be dumped out of the competition at the Nou Camp last season, Wenger believes his side remain narrow underdogs.
Crucially, though, he sees them as underdogs with a taste for victory. "I am highly delighted. It was a special football night," said Wenger. "The game promised a lot and fulfilled that promise. It was two exceptional teams who tried always to be positive.
"We are not favourites now, but what is important is the belief that we have a chance. Barcelona are still favourites. We know now that we can beat them, though. We did not know that last year. Tonight gives us a chance to go to Barcelona with belief. Every game is difficult but we will prepare well and be highly focused."
Wenger was particularly happy to see his players keep their composure during the phases of the game when Barcelona denied them possession for long periods. That is typically Arsenal's job in the Premier League and he appreciated his team's versatility. "Against Barcelona you are exposed many times when they have possession but we kept resilient and strong," he continued.
"The problem with their possession is that if you are a fraction late you are in trouble. You have to be tight with the marking and if you don't it is difficult. We were prepared mentally to live with that. Usually we have the ball more than our opponents but we knew tonight that 60 per cent of the time we would have to be focused on them."
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was complimentary of Arsenal's style and was measured in his assessment of the visitors' efforts. David Villa delivered Guardiola's minimum requirement of an away goal, meaning victory in the second leg already looms large on his mind. "I think we were okay. We have lost the first leg so we have to win the second leg," he said.
"We controlled the play for most of the match but we know they can play very well positionally. They are very good and very fast when they counter-attack. If we analyse this result it is not too bad. I think in general I am happy with the performance. But we need to score goals in the second leg. They will attack and we will attack too."