Heroic Arsenal fall short against Milan; Rossoneri progress as Gunners give them huge fright
Arsenal had a mountain to climb to overturn AC Milan’s 4-0 lead in this do-or-die Champions League clash. The North Londoners were hoping that home soil, combined with Van Persie’s phenomenal form would see them through to the next round, but with a Milan side featuring a rejuvenated Ibrahimovic, the Gunners might just be looking at damage limitation. Tonight’s other game saw Portuguese side Benfica take on 2008 UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg, who went into this match with a narrow 3-2 advantage.
With nothing to lose, Arsenal went out all guns blazing and were piling on the pressure, their enthusiasm was quickly rewarded as Koscielny slotted home from a Oxlade-Chamberlain corner in the 7th minute. This gave the Gunners a confidence that they lacked in the first leg, and they pushed on scoring again in the 25th minute with a fantastic effort from Rosicky, with half-time approaching Arsenal could have been excused for slowing down the pace, but Oxlade-Chamberlain won a penalty which Van Persie rocketed into the back of the net, as the whistle sounded a shaken Milan side made their way into the changing room for what must have been an ear-bashing of a half-time talk.
Whatever happened in the changing rooms, we saw two very different teams in the second half; Milan changed possession in their favour, and this saw a highly frustrated Arsenal who were desperately searching for an elusive fourth goal that would put them level pegging with Milan and would see the game go through to extra time. Unfortunately for Arsenal that goal never came, and despite their tremendous comeback, they couldn’t help but fall short, and crashed out of the Champions League in spectacular fashion.
Not wanting to be shown up by the action in North London, Maxi Pereira grabbed a goal in the dying moments of the first half to bring Benfica level on aggregate, and even though they saw less of the ball than Zenit, Benfica took their chances when they could. In all, they crafted a total of 19 attempts on goal, and they were finally sealed their passage into the last eight when Nelson Oliveira fired home in the 93rd minute, sending Benfica into the next round, and Zenit back to Russia to rue their mistakes.