Arsenal 3 (Koscielny 7, Rosicky 26, van Persie 43 (pen)) – AC Milan 0
Man of the Match – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
Most Gunners fans had accepted ouster from the Champions League, prior to this game, and were watching this just for the fun of it. 4-0 down from the first leg, beating Milan 5-0, with their stifling defence and their brilliant counter attacking play would always have been a mountain to climb.
What happened was completely the opposite, as Arsenal made Milan almost pay for their complacency, and nearly threatened to topple them over. Despite being knocked out from the Champions League, the team gave a magnificent and brave performance, one that won’t be forgotten in a long time.
Arsenal suffered a spate of injuries in midfield, with Arteta, Benayoun, Diaby and Ramsey all ruled out. Add to that Wilshere, Frimpong and Coquelin. Only Tomas Rosicky and Alex Song passed fit to start, the former requiring a late fitness test. Milan, on the other hand had not named Seedorf, Boateng, Gattuso, Ambrosini, Nesta and Pato as they travelled to North London.
Arsenal had to make-do with 3 wingers/forwards in midfield, in Gervinho, Walcott and Chamberlain. Milan started with an attacking 4-3-3 formation, starting Ibrahimovic, Robinho and El-Shaarawy in attack.
What happened next was least expected. I had told yesterday in my preview, that Arsenal will have to score a goal in the opening 15 minutes. And they did, as they took the game by the scruff of the neck. Laurent Koscielny, the most unlikely of goalscorers, went clear of all Milan’s defenders, as he headed in the first off a Chamberlain corner. The celebration was quiet, but everyone knew that a comeback was on.
It seemed roles were reversed from the first leg, and Arsenal’s relatively inexperienced midfield bossed Milan’s midfield. Alex Song, was massive in the centre of midfield, as he pegged back Milan’s attacks numerous times. Arsenal seemed to have rattled the Italians with the early goal, as the attacks grew. Robin van Persie had a good chance to double the lead, when he was in open space, after a mistake by Urby Emanuelson. However, he chose to play in Tomas Rosicky, who played him back, but Cristian Abbiati had made the save.
Soon, however, Arsenal got their deserved second, as Theo Walcott surged down the right, past Algerian left-back Djamel Mesbah, and Rosicky slotted past Abbiati. The impossible seemed possible now.
Milan looked toothless in attack, with Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen thwarting all of their attacks, with dogged determination. Ibrahimovic must have been caught in the offside position a million times through the game, as the Gunners’ defence kept their discipline. Milan did have one shot, though, from right-back Ignazio Abate, but was calmly collected by Szczesny.
Soon, Arsenal had turned the game around, as the impressive Oxlade-Chamberlain ran at the Rossoneri’s defence, who just couldn’t deal with the youngster’s pace, and toppled him over. The referee took some time to take a decision, and when he did, he awarded a penalty to Arsenal. The penalty had to be delayed after the ball seemed to have gone off the penalty spot. However, van Persie gathered his concentration back and slammed home the penalty, to send the Emirates crowd into raptures.
Milan, could have however hurted the Gunners’ soon after, but El-Shaarawy shot a fantastic chance wide. The second half started with the same fashion as Arsenal fashioned some forays into Milan’s defence. However, Oxlade-Chamberlain played through a hamstring strain, which considerably reduced his effect. The best chance of the game fell to van Persie, however. Rosicky won the ball in midfield, and released Gervinho on the left, whose low shot was saved by Abbiati. It rebounded off to the Dutchman, but he misconnected, and Abbiati saved again comfortably.
By then, Milan seemed to have found the control, that was so lacking in the first half. They kept possession well and frustrated Arsenal. Ibrahimovic almost made most of a Szczesny mistake, but his effort was wide. Antonio Nocerino, got the best chance to kill the tie, with the goal wide open, but Szczesny collected after the Italian completely made a hash out of it.
Arsenal threw of Moroccan Marrouane Chamakh and South Korea captain Park Chu-Young, but Milan held on to win the tie 4-3 on aggregate. They, however, paid so dearly, for their lacklustre and complacent defence.
Arsenal may be out of Europe, but this result is just one among a recent impressive run of form, and will help the Gunners’ in their push for fourth spot. They have made the fans proud. 🙂
Szczesny (8) – A composed game from the young Pole. Made a number of saves, which were more of desperate attempts from Milan.
Sagna (7.5) – Sagna had a fine game yesterday. Was rarely troubled by Milan’s attack.
Vermaelen (8.5) – The short Belgian was gigantic in the heart of defence, as he made several clearances. Was a colossus.
Koscielny (8.5) – Like Vermaelen, Koscielny too was a rock in the centre of defence. Kept out Ibrahimovic and Robinho well under check.
Gibbs (7.5) – Gibbs had another composed game. Was found wanting at times, with El-Shaarawy attacking his flank, but Gibbs overall had a good game.
Song (8) – Another fine display from the Cameroonian. Helped Arsenal rule the midfield in the first half.
Rosicky (8) – Scored a vital goal, and his attack play was impressive. Played deep to help out Song, and sparked pacy counter-attacks.
Gervinho (7.5) -Didn’t look very sharp today. Seems to be still lacking a bit of fitness, after the rigors of travelling to and fro from Africa, after the Cup of Nations.
Oxlade-Chamberlain (8.5) – Tormented the Milan midfield and defence. He played as a playmaker, and sprayed balls around with ease. Won the penalty, which resulted in the third goal.
Walcott (7.5) – Gave Mesbah and Thiago Silva a hard time, with some well timed runs, on the flanks.
van Persie (8) – Scored a brilliant penalty, under pressure, and had to drop in deep for most periods of the game. Though he was well marked by Mexes, van Persie looked dangerous all night.
Chamakh (7.5) – Seemed to offer Arsenal a different option for Arsenal in attack, but too little time to make an impact.
Park– Came on too late to get a rating, or make an impact.
Overall Team Rating – 7.91