Champions’ League: Milan AC 0 – Arsenal 2

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
March 4th, 2008 • 10:11 pm

I’ve got to hand it to my wife. She predicted that the Gunners would win 2-0, and that they would score both goals while she was in the bathroom.

As so they did.

Me, I had hopefully predicted a 1-1 draw, and said that I would take it, of course. Milan AC still would have never been defeated at home by an English team in Europe, but I was quite willing to keep their record intact, if that was what it would take for us to qualify.

But no—instead we had to endure yet another long period of goal-less football, with all the associated tension.

It’s such a fine line between frustration and elation, isn’t it? After a rather shaky start, the game was almost a replica of the first leg, with Arsenal dominating the game, creating the best chances, and yet somehow failing to score. They were really playing like the home team, with the likes of Pirlo, Kaka, etc. strangely subdued, but of course the Gunners were always at the mercy of a deadly counterattack.

It would clearly have been against their very nature for the Italians to actually sustain long periods of attacking football. They tried for 15 minutes and there were a couple of worrying moments for the defense, but ultimately it all passed, and then it was really all Arsenal or mostly Arsenal.

But still they could not score. Fábregas hit the bar. Éboué missed. Senderos missed. And still Wenger would not bring van Persie on. I confess: I fast-forwarded through a few bits. (We never get to watch these games live in this house. They take place too early in the afternoon for us working folks in North America.) I fast-forwarded not because it was not captivating stuff, because I just couldn’t take the tension. And my wife took refuge in the bathroom. She has it easy: When she can’t stand the tension, she just goes away.

But then she knew what would happen. Well, she didn’t quite anticipate Fábregas rediscovering his goal-scoring accuracy at just the right time, in just the right game, but yes, she was in the bathroom when it happened.

And then she was very silly and went back to the bathroom during extra time. Now really that was unnecessary. She knows it’s going to be over soon, and she knows we have much more than a good chance of getting through now. After all, Milan would have to score two in four minutes. Hardly likely.

But still she went away. And well, yes, we all know what happened. Walcott once again refused to go down when clearly fouled and recovered his stride and hit a great cross for… Adebayor! The man who’s not capable of scoring in the Champions’ League, remember?

OK, so it wasn’t the hardest of finishes, and Milan had to have pretty much given up on the whole thing at this point, but still… Obviously the Togonator does not need long hair to score. And Walcott did exactly what could be expected of him after coming on as a sub. Inject some additional pace and deliver the death blow.

But in truth it was a great all-round team performance—except maybe for these first 15 minutes of early jitters. Thankfully the Italians did not capitalize, and then history was made, in more ways than one.

It’s still to early to predict how far this team can go, but it has to be a terrific morale booster at a time when there were doubts about the fortitude and stamina of the team. Nothing has been won yet, but surely this performance will prove once and for all that the Gunners are serious contenders this year in both the competitions that they are still involved in. Yes, they were ultimately disappointing in the two domestic cups, but it was obviously a gamble that Arsène Wenger was willing to take, and tonight’s performance appears to justify it. There is still a long way to go, but there is hope that this will be a turning point and an end to the recent slip in form and results.

The question now is, of course, who we are going to play next. Based on this round and on other results in recent years, it looks like it might be better for the Gunners to continue to be the underdogs—but then at this stage of the competition, the other teams left are all pretty serious contenders.

That said, I seriously hope that we don’t get Fenerbahce. I skimmed through the game at Sevilla and it might have been entertaining for the fans, but the amount of play-acting and cynical fouling on both sides was purely revolting. It reminded me of Mourinho’s FC Porto team that won it a few years ago.

Compared to that game, the Milan AC – Arsenal game was remarkably “clean.” Hleb may have been deservedly booked for what looked like a rather theatrical fall on the edge of the area (but the truth is that he was fouled and that it was a free-kick), and of course Éboué had a couple of fairly stupid falls, as per usual (I really don’t think he’s ever going to make it as a proper winger; he missed yet another glorious chance today). But apart from that, there was obviously a fair amount of respect on both sides, and the referee did not have any controversial decisions to make. It was good to see this at this stage, in such a high profile game.

Let’s hope it continues for the rest of the tournament—although for that to happen we might need to get the professional whiners from Stamford Bridge booted out of the competition. Still, there is a serious risk that four English teams will be in the quarter-finals, which unfortunately substantially increases the chance of them having to play against one another.

We’ll see on Friday.

And then it’s on to Wigan on Sunday and a breakthrough here in our home in Canada, since it’ll be the first game involving Arsenal that we’ll get to see in HD. (I know, I know, we’re late to the HD game, but “soccer” is not a high-profile sport around these parts.) Unless the HD channel in question screws up and feeds us a horribly stretched SD broadcast, of course, which it had done on occasion.

Well done to the Gunners, and let’s hope for an exciting end to the season.

One Response to “Champions’ League: Milan AC 0 – Arsenal 2”

  1. MaCinJay says:

    What a great result! Just what the doctor ordered after those poor Premier League performances and that awful injury to Eduardo. And it was nice to see the team playing the more positive football getting its just rewards.

    I almost felt sorry for Milan though – the longer the game went on the more creaky they looked. Arsenal could have won by a much bigger margin if not for all the missed opportunities (though to be fair the Italians also squandered one or two chances).

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