MessiMessi was once again crucial for the Catalan side
Arsenal's first leg heroics had meant an upset was on the cards but a brace from Messi and a controversial sending off for Robin Van Persie, ensured it was Barcelona who went through on the night.
After a thrilling encounter at the Emirates just over two weeks a go, Arsenal 'keeper Szczesny knew that a clean sheet would be enough to take the English side through to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. A finger injury in the 19th minute meant that this responsibility would ultimately fall to second-choice shot-stopper Manuel Almunia and as half time approached, he had largely stuck to the script.
Adriano had rattled the post with an effort reminiscent to Van Persie's first-leg goal and Diaby somehow got away with a careless trip on Messi dangerously near the box but Barcelona's pressure would soon bring reward. Iniesta freed Messi in the third minute of stoppage time before the break, and the little Argentine made no mistake, skillfully dinking the ball over substitute Almunia before volleying into the open net.
The game had simply been attack versus defence and an Arsenal goal was going to require a moment of brilliance or a slice of luck. On 53 minutes, makeshift centre back Busquets obliged with the latter, heading into his own net from a Nasri corner. But Arsenal's luck was about to run out.
A threaded ball had the travelling English fans up off their seats but a marginal offside call meant any finish from Van Persie would not count. Apparently unaware of the whistle, the Dutch striker still took a touch before hitting a low drive, much to the disapproval of referee Bussaca. A yellow card in the first half was then added to with a second, presumably for kicking the ball away, and Van Persie was forced to leave the field. As hard as the task had been with 11 men, Arsenal were now forced to defend for their lives a man down.
Almunia did well to block Messi and then Villa but Xavi would not be stopped when he bore down on goal with 20 minutes of normal time remaining. The midfielder found the net via a slight deflection off a sliding Arsenal defender and at 2-1, extra-time and penalties were a real possibility.
After losing out to Birmingham in the final of the Carling Cup and only drawing to Sunderland in the Premier League, Arsene Wenger and his side would have been determined to progress in the Champions League to keep trophy hopes alive. However, Koscielny, arguably at fault for the decisive goal at Wembley only 10 days before, made it truly a couple of weeks to forget. The penalty award for his trip on Pedro two minutes after Xavi's goal met little resistance and when Messi picked up the ball the rest was obvious.
Desperately seeking another vital away goal, the final chance for the English team fell to Bendtner but his poor touch allowed Valdes to claim and Arsenal hopes to end. A 4-3 aggregate win was no less than Barça deserved and they remain very much on course for a third UEFA Champions League success in six years.