AC Milan 4 (Boateng 15, Robinho 38,49, Ibrahimovic 79) – Arsenal 0
Man of the Match – Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan)
Arsenal slumped to their biggest defeat in the knockout stages, yesterday as they slumped to a 4-0 loss to a dominant AC Milan at the San Siro.
Pre-match talks by Arsene Wenger were that of expressing concern over the pitch, which, infact was poorly laid out. Milan, who rely mostly on their central midfield and have minimal wing-play, had patched out both the flanks, and probably was a reason Arsene Wenger decided to start with only one winger in Theo Walcott, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being benched, and Tomas Rosicky getting a start. News came in some time before the kick-off that Per Mertesacker is probably out for the season. Kieran Gibbs started at left-back, in his first appearance in 4 months.
Regardless of the condition of the pitch, there was nothing to suggest in the opening few minutes that Arsenal would be mauled comprehensively on the evening. Milan, who started with Dutchmen Clarence Seedorf and Mark van Bommel in midfield, made a slow start, so did Arsenal. Clarence Seedorf, however picked up a strain in the 12th minute and was replaced by compatriot Urby Emanuelson.
But, the dynamics of the game changed minutes later. Antonio Nocerino spotted Boateng in a clear position. The gifted Ghanian, chested the ball down, and in one motion, smashed the ball past a hapless Szczesny. It was literally unstoppable.
Arsenal were visibly a bit battered, as Ibrahimovic toyed with Sagna and Koscielny, using his height and physique to best use. Robinho, who seemed quiet all this time, himself was giving Gibbs a torrid time on the left. Arsenal failed to build on patient build-ups, as they were broken down well by Milan’s rearguard.
Mark van Bommel was particularly impressive. Phillipe Mexes and Thiago Silva kept a tight leash on van Persie, who was anonymous for most of the first half. They made countless interceptions and shut down all supply lines from Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal’s midfield looked comparatively lightweight. Milan won the midfield battle as they wore out their opponents with some neat passing. Soon enough, Ibrahimovic cut down from the left, evaded Sagna, and crossed to Robinho, who obliged, by poking the ball past Szczesny, despite being under close attention from Koscielny and Vermaelen. By half-time, Arsenal’s woes were compunded with Koscielny picking up a strain of his own, and being replaced by the clumsy Djourou.
Wenger introduced Thierry Henry at the expense of Walcott, at half-time in the hope that the mercurial Frenchman would produce one last moment of magic before he left for New York. But, before he knew it, Milan had added a third.
More good work from Ibrahimovic on the left, as he fed Robinho. Thomas Vermaelen lost balance, and slipped, and Robinho calmly shot past Szczesny. Arsenal did put up some semblance of a fight though. Some neat build up play resulted in van Persie’s first shot on target, after being set up by Henry. Unfortunately, it was dealt with by an inspired Cristian Abbiati.
Thomas Vermaelen had a header over the bar, and van Persie had another shot, this time off his right-foot saved comfortably by Abbiati. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was pushed on to the scene. However, Milan dealt with him by marking him with Atonini and Emmanuelson. Milan had got all their tactics spot on.
The star of the evening, the super Swede Ibrahimovic, finally got what he deserved on the night. He fell down too easily with Johan Djourou in his path. The referee harshly gave a penalty. Szczesny guessed right, but Ibrahimovic’s penalty saw the back of the net.
It was a dissapointing end to an evening that had promised so much. It will also be something which Thierry Henry, or for that matter, Arsenal will completely want to forget.
With Arsene Wenger already admitting that the tie is as good as over, pride is at stake, when AC Milan come to North London in 3 weeks time.
Szczesny (6) – Not helped by his defence on the day. Was very poor with his distribution on the night.
Sagna (6) – Struggled against Ibrahimovic, through the length of the game.
Vermaelen (6.5) – Lone ranger in Arsenal’s defence. Unfortunate slip, lead to Milan’s third.
Koscielny (6) – Unfortunate to have been injured. However, should have dealt better with Robinho on the second goal.
Gibbs (7) – The only bright spot for Arsenal. Put a efficient display on his return after a long injury layoff.
Song (6) – Didn’t keep the ball too well today. And not able to contain either Boateng or Nocerino.
Rosicky (7) – Put in a good display, but was well monitored by Milan’s unflinching defence.
Arteta (6.5) – Not his night either. Milan kept a check on him throughout. Was guilty of losing possession on numerous ocassions.
Walcott (5) – Totally uneffective. Antonini had him in his pocket.
Ramsey (6) – Looked overwhelmed by the stage. Looked unconvincing and naive.
van Persie (6) – Rarely saw him with the ball. When he did have it, it was met with Abbiati’s hands.
Djourou (6) – Conceded a harsh penalty. But, he is no Koscielny.
Henry (7) – Did his best to inject some inspiration and ideas into the game, but to no avail. Sad farewell for the legend.
Oxlade-Chamberlain (6.5)- Came on too late to get accustomed, and never could run at the Milan defenders with such a poor pitch on the flanks.
Overall Team Rating – 6.32