AC Milan (0) – (2) Arsenal
Fabregas (84′), Adebayor (90’+2)
San Siro, Milan
Football is such a strange game.
Arsenal failed to beat Birmingham City and Aston Villa, so what hope did people give Arsenal against the current European Champions?
Well luckily, since the so called ‘coverage’ of the Eduardo incident I think we’ve learnt not to listen to the media. If you did you would think Arsenal were about to be relegated from the Premier League – but we’re top aren’t we? It’s amazing how the ‘experts’ forget that.
Making history is something Arsene Wenger specialises in, and last night Arsenal became the first English side to win at the home of AC Milan. I was careful not to say the San Siro, because we already did that in emphatic fashion 4 seasons ago against Inter!
The magnitude of the last nights win still hasn’t really sunk in.
This was the side that in the last 5 seasons have been in 3 finals. This is the side with the best player on the planet in Kaka. This is the side that live and breath for the Champions League.
And we dominated them from start to finish.
Arsene Wenger called for the “complete performace” if we were to progress into the Quarter Finals and the boys didn’t fail to impress. The supremacy Arsenal displayed for the majority of the match against a team who live for this competition was scary.
Last night was Milan’s Cup Final and to perform like we did was sensational.
Obviously AC Milan are a great side and posed a threat, but at best it was sporadic – with Pato only really having their only decent opening.
Arsenal were up for it from the off and were exceptional in keeping possession. The confidence and passing was a joy to watch and the only thing lacking was the goal Arsenal deserved. The first half ended goalless, with Adebayor forcing a good save from the Colossal Kalac and Fabregas smashing the bar.
And Hleb was criminally booked for diving when he should have at least got a freekick for the lunge by Nesta on the edge of the Milan penalty area.
The feeling at half-time was had Arsenal missed their chance?
Milan were grateful for the interval but unfortunately for them as soon as the second half started Arsenal just picked up from where they left off – passing the ball around the pitch with supreme confidence and causing Milan all kinds of problems.
But AC Milan showed us why they are so good in this competition.
By hook or by crook, after 80 minutes Milan were still in this game. Teams in the past such as PSV Eindhoven, Bayern Munich and even Celtic have played well at the San Siro and ended up on the losing team. Milan get the job done and you wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if they nicked a goal against the run of play.
Fortunately though, Arsenal’s defending was excellent.
Sagna, Clichy, Gallas and Senderos were fantastic at the back. Kaka, Pato and Inzaghi were kept quiet for large periods and the extent of Arsenal’s defending was summed up when Kaka uncharacteristically threw the ball in frustration when missing out on a throw in from Sagna late in the second half – the Brazilian just hadn’t been in the game.
It’s hard to single out an individual player because everyone played so well last night. Adebayor looked like he was back to the form of old, holding the ball up well and at times taking on the Milan rearguard by himself. Hleb’s ball retention yet again was terrific and he really was relishing playing through the middle. Flamini was commanding as ever and completely overshadowed Ivan Gattuso in midfield, and even Diaby who has been up and down this season put in a worthy display.
And even Theo Walcott (who only came on late in the second half) made a decent impact. I was surprised that Arsene didn’t bring on Van Persie to be honest but Walcott, in the end, was the right call. His introduction may have just tilted the tie in Arsenal’s favour.
But the man of the match and the player who ran the show was Cesc Fabregas.
Exceptional, special, brilliant, fantastic. Pick any one of those words because this fella was at the heart of everything.
His quality shined through and last night he was the pass master. It was one of the best performances I have ever seen from Cesc and that is saying something considering the level this guy plays at. And if his on the ball display was breath-taking then his defending was even better. I lost the number of times Fabregas won the ball from Kaka with a sliding tackle. Simply sensational stuff.
And it was Cesc who broke the deadlock.
With only 6 minutes of normal time remaining, Cesc picked up the ball from Hleb just passed the halfway line and waltzed passed Gattuso and unleashed a wicked effort right into the bottom corner. To be honest when I first saw the shot I thought it was going wide because the goalkeeper seemed slow to react, but replays showed it fizzed inbetween Adebayor and Nesta, and Kalac didn’t see it till late.
Still, it was a stunning strick and must have been from all over 40 yards.
And in a game were away goals count double then scoring with only 5 minutes to go is the perfect time to score! And it was no more than what Arsenal deserved. Walcott showed his maturity in stoppage time when he rode a tackle and gave Adebayor one of the easiest Champions League goals he’ll ever score. Great play and awareness from the youngster.
The reaction when Fabregas scored epitomised the team spirit in the Arsenal camp and the togetherness within the squad. And the expression on Cesc’s face was priceless – it was what every Arsenal fan was feeling. All the pressure, all the despair and all the drama from the last couple of weeks was released in dramatic fashion.
We were going into the Quarter Finals!
Truly one of the greatest nights in Europe we’ve seen from Arsenal and hopefully not the last.