AS Monaco 0 Arsenal 2
( Giroud 36, Ramsey 79 ) (3-3 on aggregate)

Arsenal continued their unfortunate sequence of last 16 Champions League exits, despite a 2-0 win in Monaco. But the damage was done three weeks ago with the 3-1 loss at the Emirates, and that late injury time third Monaco goal. Needing to score three times, Olivier Giroud and substitute Aaron Ramsey put the Gunners in command with a 2-0 lead. With 11 minutes of normal time remaining, mission impossible had become mission very possible. There is always going to be one chance that needs to be taken, and it duly arrived when Giroud and Alexis Sanchez went for the same ball, which ended up off the Chile striker’s head. Monaco keeper Danijel Subotic’s acrobatic scoop saved the danger for his team. Five minutes of time added on saw the Gunners surging forward, desperately seeking the aggregate winner of the two ties but the Ligue 1 side held firm and Arsenal were agonisingly out at the Stade Louis II stadium.

There was much optimism going into this match, and despite Monaco not having conceded three goals at home all season, Arsenal knew they could prevail. Prior to kick off the Gunners had an unbeaten record in France, P10 W7 D3 L0. Each of those victories came by a single goal but that wouldn’t suffice. So now they remain unbeaten with an eleventh win to add to that sequence, and by two clear goals, but conceding late on in North London was the blow which went on to inflict the damage.

Nacho Monreal came in for Kieran Gibbs from first leg and the Gunners started well. Hector Bellerin’s cross found Giroud who headed just wide after 14 minutes. Giroud then turned provider from the left and found Santi Cazorla in space but the Spain midfielder saw his shot blocked.

Midway through the first half, Koscielny struck the bar from free kick, but he was ruled offside. Arsenal sat composed and concentrated against a Monaco side who showed they can spring into attack at any moment. Patient and urged on by a sizeable travelling continent from North London, Arsenal’s next move saw them take the lead.

Danny Welbeck found Giroud. The France striker saw his first shot blocked by Subotic, but he was alert to the rebound which he guided into the roof of the net with his right boot after 36 minutes. It was his 7th goal in his last 8 games, and the first Champions League goal Monaco had conceded at the Stade Louis II this season.

Suddenly, the discipline of Monaco disappeared, and Arsenal went searching for more. Two minutes later and Welbeck drilled his shot heading into the net, until a prone Aymen Abdenour deflected the ball for a corner. It was a let off for the home side. In first half time added on, and the rampant Welbeck fired in a cross into the danger area, but Giroud couldn’t react quickly enough, to poke the ball in. Arsenal finished the half the stronger as Welbeck fired another shot at Subotic.

The tempo of the game drifted for the early exchanges of the second half. Monaco showed little ambition with David Ospina not having much to do. Mesut Özil continues to dazzle and frustrate in almost equal measure, but here he was having a better night. He saw his free kick go just over the bar, but he and Sanchez will feel they could have done more. With Sanchez booked for diving when he had his ankle clipped, he was subsequently more sinned against than sinner from then on.

Returning to the club he once coached, Arsene Wenger spoke of the belief and desire to see this game through. He brought on Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey and the two combined to double the Gunners’ advantage.

Walcott latched onto a cross from the left and struck the post. The ball wasn’t cleared by Layvin Kurzawa, and there was Ramsey to slot home Arsenal’s second, and it was game on.

Sanchez and Giroud’s far post attempt could and should have put the aggregate score in favour of Arsenal, but once again, they will realise that the damage was done in the first leg, leaving Ramsey to reflect on the Gunners’ disappointment at elimination.

He said “We’re obviously disappointed that we didn’t qualify. We won 2-0 and gave them a good go. On another night we may have got three or four but it wasn’t to be.
“We have to learn to keep ourselves in the game in the first leg. That’s what we’ve been punished for again this year. We need to be a lot more wise in the first game then go to places like this and win. That’s the main thing that we need to put right as quickly as possible.”

With this aggregate 3-3 away goal loss, Arsenal have now exited at the last 16 for the fifth consecutive time. In 2013/14 it was against Bayern and a 3-1 loss. In 2012/13, Bayern prevailed on away goals. In 2011/12, AC Milan put paid to Arsenal’s Champions League ambitions with a 4-3 aggregate win, and in 2010/11 it was Barcelona who won 4-3 on aggregate over the two legs. That sequence added to Ramsey’s frustration.

” We’ve always played teams like Bayern Munich and Barcelona,” he added. “No disrespect to Monaco, but I thought we’d have a really good chance of qualifying. We were given a tough test from the first game.
“It’s not an easy place to come and their record has shown that. We’ve been full of confidence recently and we knew we could come here and give it a real go to maybe qualify, but we came a bit short in the end, ” he continued.

Arsenal now have the Premier League title run in and an FA Cup semi- final against Reading to look forward to. The Gunners’ Champions League ambitions are over for another season, and the priority will be to get a minimum top four finish, defend the FA Cup, and then finally learn from the mistakes of this Champions League campaign.