Arsenal (3) – (0) AC Milan
Arsenal lose 3-4 on aggregate
The Emirates Stadium, London
Arsenal never fail to put you through the emotions. At the end of the game, you felt proud, frustrated, disappointed – this game had it all.
First of all, I have to mention the referee. Tonight he was a complete disgrace. In a game where so much was at stake, he pulled up for so many unnecessary fouls and was blatantly supporting the away side. Some of the decisions were diabolical and all he succeeded in doing was slowing the game down and playing into AC Milan’s hands.
But onto the performance tonight. In the match preview all I asked was that Arsenal give it everything and tonight they did just that. Despite the frustrating second half, Arsenal were sensational for the first hour. Unfortunately, we tired and the first half heroics took their toll.
Arsenal had the perfect start, scoring from a brilliant Oxlade-Chamberlain corner converted by Koscielny. It clipped his shoulder on the way in but as I said earlier today, I didn’t care how the goals came. That early goal was vital and set the tone for the rest of the first half.
That first goal planted the seed of doubt in AC Milan minds and a mistake from Thiago Silva was punished by Tomas Rosicky, who was excellent in midfield tonight. He deserved his goal and made some gut-busting runs into the attacking third.
At 2-0, Arsenal still pushed AC Milan back and a beautiful run from Oxlade-Chamberlain resulted in a blatantly penalty. The referee had second thoughts but finally had the sense to award the penalty kick. Antics from Mark Van Bommel and the referee proved futile as Van Persie smashed home the penalty and gave Arsenal a barely believable 3-0 lead going into half time.
The second half started in the same vain, but unfortunately – and frustratingly – we only mustered one clear chance in the second period. Gervinho was played in by Rosicky, and his deflected shot was saved by Abbiati. The ball rebounded to Robin Van Persie, and instead of putting his foot through it he tried to chip the keeper who looked relieved to have the ball fall into his hands.
And that was our only real chance.
The second half was frustrating but having a little time to put things into perspective, you can only be proud of the performance tonight. Sure, Van Persie really should have buried that second half chance but in all honesty it’s impossible to be upset by a man who has pretty much single-handedly put Arsenal into 4th place in the league. It was written in the stars for Van Persie to be the hero and score that all important 4th goal but it wasn’t to be.
The fact was the boys were dead in the second half and we can’t ask for any more than that. We can’t dwell on this game, we need to put it behind us and now just have to focus on getting 4th place. We’ve had fantastic victories against Tottenham and Liverpool, and even though we have gone out tonight we beat AC Milan 3-0, and that’s the bottom line.
And defensively we were excellent. There were a few shaky moments but Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny and Gibbs were top draw. AC Milan were found offside on several occasions – whether that was down to good defending or sloppy Milan play – but they kept a clean sheet and that is a massive positive.
We need to take this win and carry on the momentum. Perversely, winning 3-0 tonight might have been the perfect result. Yes, the fans and players will be disappointed about just missing out from the next round but with Barcelona and Real Madrid in such fantastic form you can’t really see anyone else winning the Champions League this season. We don’t have the distraction of Europe now and can solely concentrate on the league which is the most important thing.
Massive credit must go to Arsene Wenger, the players and also the fans that supported the team for the entire 90 minutes. There’s no point dwelling on the disastrous first leg, that’s in the past now, and all we can do is put everything into the rest of the domestic campaign.
The media might try and stick the knife in but that shouldn’t detract from a superb Arsenal performance which was almost enough to make history in the Champions League.
Tonight I’m proud of the team and every Arsenal fan should be too.
Arsenal Player Ratings
Wojciech Szczesny: 8/10
Made some good saves but also made a couple of mistakes with his distribution, which were thankfully unpunished. Did well to keep a clean sheet and was commanding as usual.
Bacary Sagna: 8/10
Up and down the right hand side all night and helped Arsenal stretch Milan when Walcott was found wanting. Defended well against Ibrahimovic who drifted out wide at times and was solid all night.
Thomas Vermaelen: 9/10
Was brilliant alongside Koscielny and kept Ibrahimovic and Robinho quiet all night. Made some great interceptions and tried to push the team forward whenever he could.
Laurent Koscielny: 9/10
Fantastic tonight and really showing how good a defender he is. Gave Arsenal that all important early first goal and defended excellently tonight.
Kieran Gibbs: 8/10
Did well in at the back, and opted to clear the ball instead of trying to pass the ball from the back which relieved the pressure. Push on well but was let down by the lack of support by Gervinho down the left.
Alex Song: 8/10
Was clearly exhausted at the end of the game and gave everything. Did well with Rosicky and Oxlade-Chamberlain and made some excellent tackles. Was a victim of some terrible refereeing though.
Tomas Rosicky: 8/10
Was excellent, particularly in the first half. Made some midfield splitting runs and made things happen. Took his goal well and was all over the pitch.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 9/10
This kid was fantastic in the middle. Wasn’t fazed at all and bust a gut to join the attack and help out at the back. Taken off on 75 minutes which was hardly surprising as he had given absolutely everything. His passing and decision-making was spot on and shown he is useful out wide and in the middle.
Theo Walcott: 6/10
Theo was disappointing tonight. He couldn’t really contribute like he did against Tottenham and even being against a poor left back in Mesbah he struggled to make the impact we really needed. Lost the ball too many times.
Had another poor game. Clearly has pace but didn’t stretch the AC Milan back-line enough, opting to come inside instead of going wide and in behind which would have been more successful. His wastefulness didn’t help tonight and he needs to be more decisive.
Robin van Persie: 7/10
The man on from got his customary goal and – rightly or wrongly – will be remembered for missing that guilt-edged chance in the second half. Was let down badly by the lack of service from Gervinho and Walcott, and only had 3 real chances tonight which is not good enough. Needed more chances to score which would have made the difference in the end.