Arsenal went out of the Champions League after a brave 3-0 win over AC Milan at the Emirates tonight.
With a four goal deficit to overturn, an early goal would have been very welcome and Laurent Koscielny duly obliged. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain whipped in a great ball, Kos lost his marker and headed into the bottom corner in the 6th minute.
Milan looked slow and ponderous, seemingly content to see out the game and to hold onto their first leg lead. But Arsenal, with Rosicky and The Ox driving us forward from midfield looked dangerous all the time.
Rosicky and van Persie should have made more of sloppy Milan play which saw them 2 on 1 but fluffed their lines. The skipper then forced a great save from Abiatti with a curling effort from the edge of the box.
In the 26th minute we got a second. A Walcott run and cross should have been easy for the Milan defence to deal with but Thiago Silva’s feeble clearance fell straight to Rosicky in the area. He took a look, then simply passed it around the defender into the bottom corner, Abiatti’s desperate touch not enough to keep it out.
Arsenal continued to make all the running, and in the 42nd minute Oxlade-Chamberlain surged into the Milan box, found himself obstructed by two defenders and the referee eventually pointed to the spot. Robin van Persie ignored some gamesmanship regarding the placement of the ball to smash home the spot kick to make it 3-0.
We then had a bit of luck just before half-time when we got caught out defensively, El Shaarawy had just Szczesny to beat, albeit from an angle, but he put his shot well wide. When you consider one Milan goal would require Arsenal to get six it was a lucky escape.
The second started well again but it was clear Milan had been given some kind of a bollocking by their boss at half-time and were much improved. They looked more dangerous and kept the ball much better.
We began to give them a lot of space which they didn’t have in the first half but the best chance fell to Robin van Persie. When Abiatti saved from Gervinho, the ball fell to van Persie inside the 6 yard box. When a sidefooted effort would have sufficed he tried a little dink over the keeper which Abiatti read and saved.
It was to prove costly as it was the last real chance that we fashioned. The team began to look tired, Oxlade-Chamberlain was suffering having picked up a hamstring strain early in the half and Milan’s experience began to show through, with ball possession and cunningly winning free kicks off a ref who looked as if he was taking charge of his first ever match.
The visitors should have made the last 15 minutes inconsequential when Nocerino somehow contrived to miss from 3 yards. Seriously, one of the most amazing misses I have ever seen.
We threw on Chamakh for The Ox, Park came on for the injured Walcott but we looked exhausted and just couldn’t find a way to replicate the glories of the first half.
For all that, however, there’s no blame to be apportioned tonight. Certainly not for Robin van Persie despite that miss, and the team in general did themselves and us proud. It was a great effort and while the players will be gutted they’ve gone out, we should recognise the scoreline and the performance.
A case of so near yet so far, the mountain we gave ourselves to climb in the first leg was just too high, but there’s pride restored in the shirt and the Arsenal we’ve seen over the last three games is the Arsenal we all love.
Unlucky lads, now for Newcastle.