A draw seems fair. Barcelona deserved to beat Chelsea and Arsenal deserved their victory over Los Galácticos. Honours even then. A balance is maintained. There is the feeling that London's chances of claiming its first European Cup might have disappeared with Chelsea exiting the tournament, as one might argue that they possessed all the nececessary tools to progress to the Final and persevere. But then the optimist will look at the way the Arsenal have grown over the course of two games against Madrid and wonder if this team might be capable of something really rather special.
Heading into the knockout phase, Arsenal were in such poor form (at the same time as their opponents were enjoying a mini-revival) that you feared they might be swept away. It was easy to forget that the Gunners had constructed a series of good results in the group stage, albeit amongst somewhat soft opponents, and that the Champions League was the one part of their erratic season where they were feeling good about themselves. Madrid gave Arsenal the space and time to build on that confidence and find themselves again, and just look at the results. Ljungberg and Gilberto have recovered from their slumps, Hlelb has stopped losing the ball and is showing that he can do some nice stuff with it and Reyes is spending more time on his feet and skinning defenders left, right and centre. And then there are the youngsters. Senderos, Eboue and Flamini are still showing some growing pains, but we have seen enough to suggest that their great potential can be realised and Cesc, well Cesc is ready right now and he is some player. Arsenal have not yet worked it out domestically, but if they enjoy some luck in the draw for the quarter-finals and keep on with those clean sheets, then they can continue to progress in Europe.
And what of Chelsea? Abramovich won't be pressing any ejector seat buttons just yet, but the signs are there that the Champions League is set to become an all-consuming obsession for Chelsea Football Club. The tournament is the one thing that they cannot master and cannot own and that frustration might cause them to make some strange decisions. Chasing a second European Cup led to the collapse of Manchester United's domestic supremacy (case for the prosecution? We give you Seba Veron) and the same thing could happen at Stamford Bridge. Picture Mourinho as Gollum, made twisted and bitter by the spell cast over him by that famous trophy....
"They're thieves! They're thieves! They're filthy little thieves! Where is it? Where is it? They stole it from us, our precious. Curse them! WE hates them! it's ours it is, and we wants it! We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little Catalans. Sneaky little Scousers. Wicked, tricksy, false!"