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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Arsenal HuMILiated at San Siro

Thierry Henry was given the worst send off Wednesday night when he was part of an Arsenal team which was given a 4-0 thumping at the hands of AC Milan in the Champions League first leg knockout encounter played at the San Siro.

Robinho scored a brace either side of Kevin Prince Boateng’s superb opener and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 79th minute penalty as Arsene Wenger’s men left the San Siro with their hopes of qualifying to the quarter finals hanging by a thread.

The match was the last one for Henry who will be heading back to his team, the New York Red Bulls, after a fairytale loan return to the Emirates. Milan dominated the match from the off controlling the midfield as the Gunners legend watched from the bench.

It took only 15 minutes for the Italian giants to open the scoring. Former Portsmouth and Tottenham midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng collected Antonio Nocerino's princely pass and rifled in an unstoppable volley off the underside of the bar to put the Milanese side ahead.

Any thoughts that the goal could have sprung Arsenal to life were misadvised as its Massimiliano Allegri’s outfi that continued to pin the Gunners into their own half. Wenger’s side were clearly struggling.

After surviving an onslaught of attacks, Arsenal further fell behind when the impressive Ibrahimovic was put through courtesy of Urby Emanuelson pass on the left channel. The Swede looked to be offside but was given a free 40 yard run into Wojciech Szczesny’s box and he simply crossed for Robinho to nod in Milan’s second heading into the interval.

Arsenal lost Laurent Koscielny just before half time and he was replaced by Johan Djourou. Thierry Henry also came in for Theo Walcott who continues to struggle.

Milan’s first goal was courtesy of a poor clearance from Szczeny. The second saw Rosicky lose possession to Abate. Rosicky was culpable again just four minutes into the second half, losing possession to the home team. Ibrahimovic collected the ball and invitingly crossed and with Vermaleen slipping, Robinho slotted his second and Milan’s third goal to put the game beyond the London side’s reach.

Ibracadabra and Robinho were proving to be a mouthful for the Gunners defence. The Swede was especially industrious and deserved a goal to cap his man-of-the-match performance. The goal did come just 13 minutes before the final whistle.

Collecting a pass from his partner in crime Robinho, Ibra controlled the ball in the box but drew a foul from Djourou. Referee Viktor Kassai saw the challenge heavy enough to warrant a penalty and rightfully gave it. Ibrahimovic made no mistake hitting it low past the Gunners keeper who went the right way but could not pull off a save.

The Gunners lacked neither the spirit, the gut, the character and perhaps even the strength in depth to engineer a comeback as they became the first English club to lose to Milan in five years and suffered their biggest Champions League loss. For Milan, it was sweet revenge after they were eliminated at the same level by Wenger's men in 2008.

Make no mistake, the Rossoneri have qualified for the quarter finals and the return leg at the Emirates will be a mere formality. For Arsenal, they may as well start dreaming of Champions League abyss as it’s uncertain whether they will finish in the top four and guarantee them a return to Europe’s premier competition next season.

Barely the send-off that Henry would have wished for.

In another encounter Wednesday night, Zenit St. Petersburg and Benfica were involved in a five goal thriller with the Russian club coming out 3-2 winners over their Portuguese counterparts heading into the second leg on March 6. Roman Shirokov scored twice and Sergey Semak scored the winner to set up a mouthwatering second leg encounter with Benfica who had Maximiliano Pereira and Oscar Cardozo to thank for their two goals.

On Tuesday night, Barcelona firmly put their one leg into the quarters after their 3-1 win away to Bayer Leverkusen. Alexis Sanchez scored twice and Lionel Messi added the third just as the Germans thought they could engineer a comeback when Michal Kadlec scored to make 2-1 before the mercurial Argentine had the last laugh. It was Messi's 19th strike in the knockout stages surpassing Raul and Andri Shevchenko who both had 18.

Alexandre Lacazette netted the only goal as Olympique Lyonnais beat surprise Cypriot outfit APOEL Nicosia at Stade Gerland.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!