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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021


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Arsenal 3 – 0 AC Milan (Agg: 3 – 4)

Good evening, good evening good evening.

There is still ample time to grab a hot-dog, some light refreshment and find your seat ahead of Arsenal’s very Mission: Impossible at the Emirates.

Of course, 4-0 is an uphill struggle but it’s worth remembering that miracles do happen.

You just have to believe…

YouTube credit: TheTrailersPark

For Arsenal though, this is te game they need to cling to. An all conquering AC were cock sure of themselves bringing a 4-1 lead to the Riazor.

It all began to unravel very very quickly.

YouTube credit: footbasecom

The big news from St Andrews is that Roberto Di Matteo has appeared to pick up where AVB left off.

Lampard, Terry and Drogba have all been dropped to the bench.

Those FA Cup teams in full:

Birmingham: Doyle, Spector, Ibanez, Davies, N’Daw, Redmond, Mutch, Gomis, Elliott, Rooney, Zigic. Subs: Myhill, Burke, King, Valles, Reilly, Jervis, Packwood.

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Bertrand, Ramires, Mikel, Meireles, Kalou, Torres, Mata. Subs: Hilario, Essien, Lampard, Drogba, Lukaku, Sturridge, Terry.

Meanwhile, in London: Alex Oxlade Chamberlain will be unleashed on Milan.

A lot of pace in this Arsenal attack.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Rosicky, Song, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, van Persie, Gervinho.

Subs: Fabianski, Park, Djourou, Jenkinson, Chamakh, Miquel, Ozyakup.

AC Milan: Abbiati, Abate, Mexes, Thiago Silva, Mesbah, Nocerino, Van Bommel, Emanuelson, Ibrahimovic, Robinho, El Shaarawi.

Subs: Amelia, Aquilani, Zambrotta, Bonera, Ganz, Yepes, Roma.

In tonight’s other Champions League fixture, Benfica take two away goals into their second leg with Zenit St Petersburg. The Russians, though, just need to hold onto an aggregate 3-2 lead.

The starting line-ups there.

Benfica: Artur, Emerson, Luisão, Maxi Pereira, Jardel, Javi García, Bruno César, Gaitán, Witsel, Óscar Cardozo, Rodrigo.

Zenit: Malafeev, Anyukov, Criscito, Lombaerts, Hubočan, Shirokov, Zyryanov, Semak, Denisov, Bystrov, Kerzhakov.

The teams are on the field listening to that lovely music.

Mee-lan are looking quite dapper in their all black kit.

Robinho doesn’t look very worried about the Gunners he’s laughing and giggling as he stands in line.

And we’re underway. Arsenal straight into a zippy passing rhythm. These Gunners fans believe, they are in full voice.

Fair play to them anyway.

Walcott caught offside there as Arsenal pick a hole in the defence with lovely interplay from RVP and Rosicky.

The Italian side are not one bit shook. When they take posession they look measured and confident.

Oooh, Justice. Mark Van Bommel booked for his first tackle.

He will miss the quarter final.

GOAL: Laurent Koscielny give Arsenal hope.

A straightforward one by Arsenal standards – a rare goal from a set-piece.

Corner from the left foud the Frenchman and he headed down, from all of five yards, into the bottom corner.

Game on!

Arsenal are in fine fettle, Van Persie almost makes it two with a low shot on his right foot.

Abbiati saves with his foot.

What on earth? Bacary Sagna has just put in a clean challenge on Van Bommel.

He won the ball (well ahead of MVB) and then the Dutchman tripped over him, yellow card. That’s a bewildering decision.

Arsenal’s tempo has dropped. A mistake from Gibbs and a foul on El Shaarawi gave Milan a dangerous free kick.

It’s easily cleared by the Arsenal defence.

Don’t go anywhere. An awful pass from Nocerino give Rosicky a two v one.

He passes to Van Persie, but the strikers return ball is poor and the move breaks down with a foul against Van Persie for a foul on Abbiati.

Boom! Van Persie receives a pass, rolls it forward with his studs and blasts it towards the top corner. Saved.

Arsenal movement and through-balls really unsettling the AC central defenders. A second goal is required before half time, however.

GOAL: And there it is, Tomas Rosicky after ’26 minutes.

A Walcott cross-shot was deflected back to the edge of the box, Rosicky took a touch and ever so calmyl picked his spot low in the right hand corner.

Did I mention it was game on?

The visitors section of the crowd could briefly be heard trying to rally their team, but Robinho was esily crowded out of the Arsenal box.

The home crowd take over the noise control again. They really believe now and Milan cannot keep the ball for long.

Koscielny playing very, very well. He’s got much more gas than I gave him credit for.

He’s just outstripped Robinho to through-ball.

Penalty to Arsenal.

GOAL: Who else? It’s Robin Van Persie.

Oxlade-Chamberlain won the spot kick squeezing himself through two Milan defenders

Amazing game.

Milan had a chance to pu the tie right out of reach. Arsenal caught short at the back and RObinho spread right to El Shaarawi.

Virtually one on one with the ‘keeper he fluffs it right and wide.

It’s half time in a game which is on it’s way into the history books.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but no team has ever overturned a four goal deficit in the knockout stages of Champions League.

In the nights other CL game. Benfica have taken the lead on away goals.

Maxi Pereira’s strike has given them a 1-0 lead on the night, 3-3 on aggregate.

Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea are still being held to Birmingham City.

Now, I don’t know about you. But nobody takes a penalty like RVP.

Here’s a nice still of his technique. The shot was blasted into the top right corner, Abbiati went the wrong way.

Nick Potts/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Grab a stiff drink and strap yourselves in. Here comes the second half.

Is this the end of the Arsenal miracle? Oxlade Chamberlain is down and holding his hamstring.

Hamstring or no hamstring, Oxlade-Chamberlain is up and sprinting again.

Brilliant goalkeeping from Sczezny. Robinho threaded a ball through the left channel to Ibrahimovic.

The Swede got there first but was smothered by the Polish stopper.

Song loses posession to Zlatan and fouls him 25 yards out before he can pull the trigger.

Yellow card, Song will miss the next match.

Here comes the free kick….. and Emmanuelson sends it curling high, handsome and over the bar.

Stephen Cluxton would have been happy with that one.

Oh no! Arsenal have 4-0 ready and waiting.

Gervinho’s shot is blocked, it falls to Van Persie – who else woud you want? – but from all of four yards he tries to chip it over Abbiati and it ends up in the ‘keepers hands.

Either side would have squared the tie, but who am I to tell RVP how to score goals.

Oh, a hospital pass from Szczesny is stole by Zlatan. Tries a long-range attempt on his second touch but it’s harmlessly wide.

This game is on the thinnest of knife edges.

Meanwhile, up the road in Birmingham Juan Mata has given Chelsea a second half lead.

This game is getting stretched. It was pretty breathless to begin with.

El Shaarawi, who has just tested the ‘keeper with a low placed shot, has been replaced by Aquilani.

There are 20 minutes left. 20 minutes to score one measly goal.

I’m no Gooner and I’ll have to work late if this goes to extra time but… COME ON ARSENAL!

Oxlade-Chamberlain is being taken off, but there is no booing from the fickle home support.

Marouane Chamack is on, an unlikely hero?

Nocerino had the game, he had his place in a Champions League quarter final all lined up and ready to go and he fluffed it.

Aquilani with a gorgeous pass across goal, Nocerino was lot stretching he could have gone with his left but side-footed with his right straight at an extremely grateful Woijcech Szczesny.

Chelsea lead 2-0 at St Andrews thanks to Raul Meireles.

Laurent Koscielny has never (and may not again) played better than this.

Walcott is limping now, Van Persie looks a little ponderous in possession. I’m beginning to doubt Arsenal can do this (again).

Walcott departs, Park Chu-Young is on.

Zlatan fouled, central 27- 28 yards out….

It’s off Sagna’s shoulder and behind… but not for a corner. The referee has inexplicably given a goal kick and Ibrahimovic is yellow-carded for his protests.

We’re in the 88th minute. Arsenal are tiring, Milan finally beginning to find space to keep possession, but the home side can still attack on the break.

The fourth offiicial holds up the board and there’s a big dirty ’3′ lit up on it.

Wenger is livid. He wants Fergie time.

Mee-lan playing out the game outside of their third.

Last chance for Arsenal, they’ve gone for hoof and hope. I hope they practice this in training….

No, the long ball is disappointingly short and RVP is offside.

Full time, Arsenal are out of the Champions League.

In the end, the first leg defeat was just too much for Arsenal to overcome. They will be proud of the performance, but it was born out of absolute necessity.

Arsenal had nothing to lose and they went out swinging. Their tackling was sharp and firm, their passing was incisive and quick.

However, from around the 70th minute Arsenal really ran out of steam. Van Persie, for one, was all of a sudden well off the pace. The intense effort from the first half caught up with all of them.

They could have done it: Van Persie was guilty of a bad miss. Having said that, Milan had their own clear cut chances and the home side should have been left needing six or seven to advance, not four or five.

It’s full-time at St Andrews and Roberto Di Matteo has gotten off to a winning start as Chelsea manager, 2-0.

There was talk of Fernando Torres being asked to take their second half penalty and him refusing so keep an eye out for that. In any case, Mata ended up missing it himself.

Benfica also go through from tonight’s action. They beat Zenit St Petersburg 2-0, 4-3 on aggregate.

Well, that’s it from me. Arsenal came so, so close…

Ah well. Night all.

About the author:

Sean Farrell