Gunners regroup after battering by Barcelona

LONDON - Arsenal, the dashing sophisticates of British football, were left hanging on like a bloodied bare-knuckle boxer on Wednesday but lived to fight another day as they clawed a 2-2 draw with Barcelona.

That Arsene Wenger's side still have a shot at the semi-finals of the Champions League despite being ripped to shreds for 60 minutes on home turf during a rip-roaring quarter-final, first leg owed much to luck and wasteful Barca finishing - but above all, old fashioned guts.

If it had been a boxing match, Arsenal would have been stopped long before the end of the first round as unanswered blows rained down on them.

With Argentine magician Lionel Messi leading Arsenal a merry dance, Barcelona hit Arsenal from every angle and should have been out of sight long before the hosts recovered their senses in the final 20 minutes.

Theo Walcott, Wenger's final throw of the dice on a night when most of his gambles blew up in his face, came off the bench to spark a recovery with a goal 20 minutes from time before captain Cesc Fabregas equalised with an 85th-minute penalty.

Even Wenger, never overly generous when it comes to praising opponents, was blown away by the quality of play produced by European champions Barcelona for whom Zlatan Ibrahimovic's two second-half goals was meagre reward for a dazzling display of intricate, attacking football.

"I have to say we played against a great team who were dominant in the early part of the game and that's where we were lucky because they had a lot of early chances," Wenger told reporters.

"I don't deny we were outplayed for most of the game, they are an outstanding team. It's hard but you can respect it more when you are not kicked.

"It was art, it was a great football night and it was two teams who went for it, an exceptional football night."

Wenger stood powerless as Arsenal chased shadows but he praised his side's durability as they picked themselves off the floor and he believes the second leg in the Nou Camp could produce one of the greatest feats of his career.

"It would be a big achievement if we could do it but I believe it's possible," he said.

"They will feel they should have killed us off. If we had not shown great mental strength against a side of their quality it could have been five."

Arsenal will be without Fabregas for the second leg after he was booked for a foul on Sergio Busquets that means he is suspended for the Nou Camp clash although after leaving the ground on crutches his season looks in jeopardy anyway.

They also lost William Gallas to a calf injury, while Russian playmaker Andrei Arshavin limped off in the first half.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who gave former Arsenal captain Thierry Henry a brief run-out to warm applause from his once adoring fans, described it as the best away performance since he took over.

It was hard to argue with that as the Catalans launched a ferocious assault.

Messi, the world's best player, signalled his intent with a surging run deep into Arsenal territory in the opening minute, signalling a sustained spell of pressure that produced nine Barca goal attempts in the opening 15 minutes.

Ibrahimovic somehow poked a point-blank effort over the bar from a cross by Dan