The Spanish press revelled in a dominant display by Barcelona that saw them qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals at Arsenal's expense, but beneath the celebration was also a sense that the Catalans had come close to blowing a golden opportunity, particularly as it took the last-ditch intervention of Javier Mascherano to deny Nicklas Bendtner the goal that would have taken the Gunners through.

Lionel Messi once again claimed the plaudits in a remarkable season for the Argentinian. Marca hailed "Unstoppable Messi", noting that the world player of the year had now notched 45 goals in 39 games. He is now not only Barcelona's all-time top scorer in European competition but has surpassed Didier Drogba as the top non-European goalscorer in the Champions League.

Marca summarised the best and the worst of Barcelona's 3-1 victory (4-3 on aggregate) as a question of attitude. It was Barça who went all-out to win, who produced what was best in the match. The worst was the attitude of Arsenal, who "betrayed their style and were well below the level expected". Marca was not alone in noting that Arsenal barely had a shot on goal.

Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona coach, took up the theme: "They didn't string three passes together. If they believe they lost because of [Robin] Van Persie's sending-off they won't go very far and will always remain on the outside looking in."

Nevertheless, Marca found Van Persie's dismissal for a second yellow card when he played on momentarily after the whistle had gone not only "very questionable" but simply "unjust".

El País was moved to dredge up some of the referee's previous, noting that Massimo Busacca had refereed the 2009 Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United but had then found himself in hot water in September of that year for making an obscene gesture at fans during a match between FC Baden and Young Boys. He was also accused of being captured on video urinating on the pitch during a match in Qatar, an accusation he strongly denied.

As to the game itself El País thought it "a heroic match, more epic than aesthetic" but picked out some recurring themes of Barcelona performances. "The script had all the Barcelona tics. The inability to convert the simplest of chances and, in contrast, scoring from the most difficult: a lovely goal from Messi. The ability to make life difficult with an own goal from a corner: Sergio Busquets. A comeback in the most favourable conditions because the referee sent off Van Persie for a trifle. Finally, a first-class scare because of a schoolboy error by Adriano corrected by a recovery by Mascherano so monumental that he gave his leg for the team."

El Mundo Deportivo's Francesc Aguilar went so far as to hail the Argentinian midfielder as "the new Neeskens" (younger readers are invited to check out the Holland and Barcelona teams of the 1970s) and the paper crowed that Barcelona had thrashed Arsenal in everything but the scoreline.

But the paper's columnist JM Artells recalled that at times it had been a close-run thing. "During the last 20 minutes Barcelona's passage to the quarter-finals was hanging by a thread and their fans were a bundle of nerves. The blaugrana didn't go chasing a fourth goal like crazy to finish off Arsenal, but opted for possession, waiting and picking out space to break the defensive line and get one on one with [Manuel] Almunia. But Villa, Messi, Afellay or Alves failed in the mano a mano. They let the opposition off the hook and passed up many chances … The Champions League, the season, European prestige, all that really matters to a club like Barça, lay at the mercy of the slightest mistake. Mascherano won the heavens stopping the certain qualification of the Gunners. They suffered too much against 10 men and an opposition who never had a shot."

The sports daily As felt that "when Messi scored for 1-0 that should have been the end of the discussion, since such a work of art deserved to secure qualification. But football is a cruel sport and it wasn't enough that in the first leg the referee had denied Barça a penalty, had ruled out a good goal by Messi and that in the return, would ignore another penalty on Messi. In the face of such misfortune, the ball handed down the verdict. And the ball, as we know, belongs to Barça.

The style of Arsène Wenger's team has frequently drawn comparisons with that of Barcelona but As suggested that there is nothing like the real thing. "Arsenal yesterday spent 90 minutes pursuing what is their hallmark in the [British] Isles. But there, there is no Barça. The ball belonged to Barça the whole time; Arsenal, despite Wenger's complaints, didn't have a shot at [Víctor] Valdés once. And even so, they were just a step away from making the quarter-finals."

The Italian press were, unsurprisingly, dismissive of Roma as they lost 3-0 to Shakhtar Donetsk and 6-2 on aggregate. Guglielmo Buccheri in La Stampa said: "Maybe it would have been better if the rising floodlight tension at Donetsk's futuristic stadium had ended in a total blackout rather than one that lasted just two minutes. The light returned, illuminating [Mircea] Lucescu's Shakhtar and showing all of Europe the confused state of a Roma team where everything is out of place."

Corriere dello Sport was more succinct, featuring the headline "Roma, what an embarrassment".