Arsenal 3 AC Milan 0 (3-4 on aggregate)

It was deemed mission impossible, but Robin Van Persie had said “Impossible is nothing. ” After a first 45 minutes, which could have possibly been the best seen at the Emirates, Arsenal held a 3-0 goal lead courtesy of Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Rosicky and a Van Persie penalty. Needing a fourth goal to level the scores on aggregate, and a fifth to win outright. The Arsenal faithful continued to believe that Champions League history was in the making, but in the second half, the Gunners just ran out of fire-power and exited Europe’s top competition.

Shorn of Mikel Arteta, Abu Diaby and Yossi Benayoun, Arsene Wenger elected to give Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a more central more defensive minded role, with Gervinho, Theo Walcott in support of Van Persie. Rosicky is clearly relishing his new central mid-field role, and he was at the heart of everything that the Gunners created. Wenger knew that an early goal was essential if Arsenal were to have any chance of progression, and with only seven minutes on the clock, he got it. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s second successive corner allowed Koscielny to lose Mark van Bommel, to head past Christian Abbiati.

It was a perfect start, and had Milan rattled. They simply could not cope with the pace and power of the Arsenal attacks, and desperately resorted to try to slow the game down. No matter, with Alex Song in his usual indomitable mood, the Gunners were soon on the march again. Van Persie saw a shot fall kindly for Abbiati after Rosicky and Walcott combined, and then Abbiati produced a fine save to deny Van Persie, after Gervinho had created the opening.

The Gunners’ pressure was relentless and Milan could not hold out for much longer as the Gunners deservedly doubled their lead. Rosicky was rolled in by Walcott with Thiago Silva”s poor clearance putting the shot on a plate for Rosicky who slotted past Abbiati on 26 minutes. The Emirates crowd erupted, and Milan had not even troubled Wojciech Szczesny’s goal. Van Persie and Gervinho switched flanks and Thomas Vermaelen was also sensing the opportunity to advance as the Gunners went in search of glory.

With his first pacey run, Oxlade-Chamberlain won the Gunners a penalty. Sandwiched in-between two Milan defenders, he was brought down. Up stepped Van Persie, with a powerful spot kick to send Abbiati the wrong way for an unbelievable 3-0 scoreline only three minutes before the break. The fans sensed an amazing European night, but just to show that they posed a threat, Antonio Nocerino had a chance that he hit just wide of Szczesny’s upright.

Five minutes after the re-start and a glorious chance to level the tie on aggregate. Rosicky powered through the middle of the pitch and fed Gervinho to his left. The Ivorian hit a shot that deflected off Abbiati’s legs, but put in his captain. Agonisingly as the Arsenal fans were about to erupt in euphoria again, and to his own disbelief, Van Pesrie’s chip was just too close to Abbiati to recover, and that fine margin was to prove to be the difference. Given his quality and the phenomenal goal scoring season he is having, Van Persie will know that he should have buried that effort.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was being kept quiet, but Koscielny’s error almost gifted the Milan striker a goal, but he shot wide. Stephan El Shaarawy then had a run and shot that Szczesny had covered and the Poland stopper punched out Ibrahimovic’s effort and moments later kept out Nocerino’s mis-timed shot.

Given their high first half energy levels, the gallant Gunners not surprisingly were finding anther goal difficult to create. Oxlade-Chamberlain was again demonstrating his fearless attitude and saw a whipping shot sail over the bar. Walcott had had another frustrating game, but his dipping shot on 71 minutes was thumped away by an under pressure Abbiati. Looking to replace players with fresh legs, Wenger brought on Marouane Chamakh and Park Ju-Young for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott respectively, but the quality that Wenger sought could not be found. It was to be agony for Arsenal, but a massive lift of a 3-0 win, a clean sheet, but ultimately this tie was lost on a bog of a pitch in the San Siro.

Defiant and proud in defeat, Wenger praised his players who just fell a fraction short.

“We got tired in the second half, I’m sure we could have scored in the second half. We restored some pride, we keep our winning run going, but we paid the price for a bad first game. I knew that it would be difficult, you need to score goals and not concede, I felt our defenders gave everything.” Wenger wanted to single out Rosicky for another man of the match performance, and also Oxlade-Chamberlain who he asked to play in central mid-field for the first time at this level

“First of all he was sick last night, I felt he was outstanding, he did very well.”

On Van Persie’s crucial chip, Wenger noted, ” I felt he wanted to chip the keeper, he was down but he got up very quickly unfortunately we couldn’t score. We didn’t have enough drive any more we played with four strikers.”

Pride in a win that was to be an effective defeat over two legs and Wenger and the fans know that Arsenal had shown a fantastic attitude and spirit which will hold the Gunners in good stead from now until the end of the season.