One strike short of miracle comeback
Milan survived a grilling at Arsenal to reach the Champions League quarter-finals 4-3 on aggregate on Tuesday despite losing the second leg of their last 16 tie 3-0 in north London.
After seemingly wrapping up the tie in the San Siro last month with a 4-0 victory, Milan’s advantage all but evaporated before halftime as goals by Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Rosicky and Robin van Persie threatened one of the competition’s greatest comebacks.
Antonio Nocerino wasted Milan’s best chance when he shot straight at Wojciech Szczesny from point-blank range but the Italians clung on to advance.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had given his side a five percent chance of turning the tie around before kickoff but by halftime the odds were favouring the home side after a barnstorming 45 minutes at a rocking Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners made the perfect start, taking the lead after seven minutes when Koscielny headed in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s inswinging corner.
Milan fielded an attacking line-up with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Stephan El Shaarawy up front but they hardly got a sniff in the opening period as a red tide swept in the other direction. Van Persie twice tested Milan keeper Christian Abbiati, forcing one flying save, before Arsenal’s second arrived after 26 minutes.
Theo Walcott sped down the right and his low cross was only half cleared by Thiago Silva straight to the lurking Czech Rosicky who steered a precise shot inside the near post.
Arsenal reduced the deficit further two minutes before the break when they were awarded a penalty after Oxlade-Chamberlain was sandwiched by Djamel Mesbah and Nocerino. Referee Damir Skomina pointed to the spot and Van Persie kept his cool to beat Abbiati.The visitors were more positive after the break although they suffered a scare when Van Persie looked poised to score but scooped the ball straight to Abbiati. Milan had several chances to seal it but were guilty of terrible misses.