Arsenal 3-0 AC Milan (AC Milan win 4-3 on agg): Arsenal agonisingly miss out after a storming comeback
Looking to be the first team in the Champions League era to overcome a four-goal deficit, the Gunners started in blistering fashion, going two up thanks to Laurent Koscielny’s header and a strike from the excellent Tomas Rosicky.
Robin van Persie’s penalty at the end of the first half put the Gunners on course for the most improbable of upsets but they ran out of steam after the break and Milan progressed to the quarter-finals.
“They can only be proud of their performance,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said afterwards. “The team has fantastic spirit and showed some fight after the first tie, but unfortunately we go out. We had the chances for a goal, but we keep our winning run going which is important. We have paid the price for a bad first game.
“But we have given everything. That is all you can do at the top level: give everything and then you can accept the result.”
Early on, Arsenal won two corners in quick succession as they looked to make immediate inroads and the move paid off as they took the lead.
Koscielny met Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s wicked curling corner and headed home unopposed with barely seven minutes gone. Abbiati pulled off a good save to deny Van Persie from 20 yards as the Gunners kept piling on the pressure in search of a second. Milan were struggling to get any time on the ball and they found themselves 2-0 down.
With 26 minutes on the clock, Thiago Silva’s poor clearance from Walcott’s cross fell straight in to the path of Rosicky, who steadied himself before slotting in a well-placed shot to Abbiati’s left from 15 yards.
Massimiliano Allegri’s team could not fathom any serious chances though, their only chance a speculative long-rang effort from Ignazio Abate that Wojciech Szczesny saved comfortably.
The home fans were on their feet two minutes before the break when Oxlade-Chamberlain raced in to the box and was brought tumbling down by Mesbah and Antonio Nocerino. Referee Damir Skomina pointed to the spot and Van Persie hammered home to make it 3-0.
Milan had a chance to pull one back in first half injury time when El Shaarawy found himself in space 20 yards out but he shot two yards wide. Milan started the second half with much more purpose. Robinho split the Arsenal defence but Szczesny came out to snatch the ball from Ibrahimovic’s feet.
Arsenal burst up the other end through Gervinho who saw his shot blocked by Abbiati from 12 yards. The home crowd gasped as the ball flew up in the air but the goalkeeper got to his feet and thwarted Van Persie’s follow-up.
As the game wore on the seven-times European champions started to look dangerous and Robinho wriggled in to the Gunners box but was quickly surrounded by a posse of home defenders. As Arsenal poured forward, Milan hit on the break through Ibrahimovic, who fired a wicked shot at Szczesny. Nocerino should have put the game to bed soon after when he got on the end of Aquilani’s pass but his shot from six yards flew straight at Szczesny, who gathered after a brief fumble.
Arsenal looked to be running out of gas after their energy-sapping efforts.
Gervinho fell in the box but Skomina waved play on.
The home crowd urged their team on but they lacked the penetration they had in the first half and the Rossoneri held on to the ball well to frustrate the hosts.