Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner conceded his team had been comprehensively outclassed by Barcelona as the Gunners crashed to defeat in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Bendtner branded Lionel Messi 'phenomenal' as the Argentina international hit all four goals as the Catalans eased to a 4-1 win at the Nou Camp for a 6-3 aggregate win.
Bendtner, who has scored key goals for the Gunners in recent weeks, opened the scoring tonight to put Arsene Wenger's men into the lead in the tie for the first time, but the visitors had no answer to the holders, who hit back emphatically with the inspired Messi at the heart of their display.
'They were the better team and sometimes you lose like that,' said the Denmark striker.
MESSI BY NUMBERS 3 players with faster hat-tricks in the Champions League: Mike Newell, Joseba Llorente and Marco Simone. 3 players ahead of Messi (12-1) in the odds for the World Cup Golden Boot: Villa (9-1), Rooney (10-1) and Torres (11-1). 4 hat-tricks in 2010: Arsenal, Real Zaragoza, Valencia and Tenerife.21 minutes between his first and third goal as he scored his first Champions League hat-trick against Arsenal.25 Champions League goals he's scored. 39 goals by the Barca forward this season, one more than last term.89 games he has scored in for Barca since his debut in 2005 - they've lost just one.
'They played some really good football. If you are going to lose, you want to lose by the other team playing you off the pitch. They were stronger than us today.'
Discussing Messi's individual performance, Bendtner added: 'He's a phenomenal player and he showed that again tonight.'
'We made a great start and it was very important in the five minutes after that we were tight.
'But in the end, if you look at the whole game they were a better team anddeserved to win.
'It is easy to make up excuses, on the day, with what happened they were abetter team than us.
'I would rather get beat by a better team, to be able to say we did what wecould, rather than be robbed in the last minute.
'Now we can focus - we have five Premier League games left,' said Bendtner.
'The next three ones are going to be vital for all of the top three, so I think there will be a lot of swapping around.'
Wenger also heaped praise on 22-year-old matchwinner Messi, adding: 'For me, he is the best player in the world, and by a distance.
'When he's in the game, he's really dangerous. Once he's on the run with the ball, he's really dangerous.'
The Frenchman added: 'I believe that we lost against a team that is better than us and have the best player in the world.
'Congratulations to Barcelona - they were better than us.'
Final nail: Lionel Messi scores his fourth goal against Arsenal
Beaten by the better side: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger watches his team fold in the Nou Camp
While few defences in the world could have coped with Messi on the form he showed, Wenger felt his side were the architects of their own downfall.
'Over two games, for a team like Arsenal, we conceded cheap goals. They didn't have to work hard enough,' he said.
'When you have players like Messi, any mistake you can play for it.'
Despite the one-sided scoreline, Wenger insisted his side could have fought their way back into the tie even after Messi completed his hat-trick.
'We battled, we came back, we started well and at 3-1 we had chances to come back to 3-2,' said Wenger.
'We missed a few opportunities where we could have been more dangerous.'
Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, so impressive in the first leg, admitted he faced a torrid time in trying to repel the threat of Messi, who hit a hat-trick inside 21 first-half minutes before completing his tally two minutes from time.
'You try to anticipate what he is going to do but it is very difficult,' the Spaniard said.
'He can do whatever he wants and at any moment, and it's difficult to stop this kind of player.'
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