Roy Keane defends Arsenal star after Barcelona loss

Roy Keane refuses to point the finger at Mathieu Flamini after Arsenal's 2-0 loss to Barcelona

Roy Keane has defended Mathieu Flamini after the midfielder’s disastrous substitute appearance in Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat by Barcelona at The Emirates.

The former AC Milan man replaced Francis Coquelin in the 82nd minute as the hosts added fresh legs to their tiring midfield after Lionel Messi’s 71st-minute opener at the Emirates Stadium.

However, the French midfielder conceded a penalty within 60 seconds of his introduction when he brought down Messi in the penalty area and the Barcelona forward sealed a 2-0 away win.

Flamini and Wenger were heavily criticised on social media for the 31-year-old’s late introduction, which proved costly for the home side.

However, former Manchester United midfielder Keane had sympathy for Flamini.

“In defence of Flamini, it was a really quick game,” Keane told ITV Sport.

“It was a very hard pace. You can be critical of Mertesacker giving him the ball. He was on his heels and great players like Messi can smell it.”

Arsenal make the trip to Barcelona for the second leg of the Champions League last-16 clash on 16 March.

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The Gunners are hoping to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2010.

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