Brave Gunners go down fighting

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

Arsenal bowed out of the Champions League after a spirited 3-0 second-leg victory over Milan saw them fall just short of a remarkable comeback.

Trailing 4-0 after a nightmare performance at the San Siro a fortnight ago, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger knew his side faced a tall order to rewrite history and become the first team to recover from such a deficit in the competition.

For an hour or so at Emirates Stadium tonight it appeared as the record books would be torn up, as the Gunners reduced the deficit with first-half goals from Laurent Koscielny, the impressive Tomas Rosicky and Robin van Persie's penalty.

However, the second-half onslaught never came as Milan - who had somehow managed to go out to Deportivo La Coruna in the 2003-04 quarter-finals, losing the second leg in Spain 4-0 having won 4-1 at home - regrouped and were not really troubled during the closing stages.

Despite all their courageous endeavour, Arsenal must now concentrate all of their energy on retaining a place in the top four of the Barclays Premier League to make sure such engaging European nights return next season.

Arsenal needed an early breakthrough, which came after just seven minutes when Koscielny - who had scored an own goal at Liverpool on Saturday - headed in a corner from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

After Van Persie had seen his near-post effort from a tight angle saved, there was a moment of panic in the Gunners defence when Kieran Gibbs was booked after hacking down Stephan El Shaarawy, the 19-year-old making his Champions League debut, following a poor clearance by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Arsenal were soon back on the offensive, when after 18 minutes Van Persie's curling 20-yard effort was acrobatically beaten away by Christian Abbiati.

The shaky Milan rearguard was breached again in the 25th minute. Theo Walcott surged down the right, and when his cross was half-cleared by Thiago Silva, the ball dropped to Rosicky who planted it back inside the near post.

The Emirates Stadium faithful, so seething in their criticism of Wenger and his side this season, were now in full voice as the unlikeliest of comebacks was very much now on.

Rosicky, the 31-year-old Czech, was running the midfield, more than making up for injured colleagues Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta.

As half-time approached, Arsenal continued to press.

Oxlade-Chamberlain powered into the right side of the Milan penalty area, when he was sandwiched by Antonio Nocerino and Djamel Mesbah.

It seemed an age before Slovak referee Damir Skomina pointed to the spot and after another delay for the ball to be relaid, Van Persie kept his cool to smash home his 32nd goal of the season.

Despite their dominance, one break for Milan would have changed the whole dynamic of the tie.

The Italians' big chance came just before half-time when El Shaarawy was played into acres of space on the right, but as the goal opened up, the teenager shot wide.

Arsenal started the second half on the offensive, but Milan had now regrouped and were closing down quickly, with Alex Song, the Gunners midfield enforcer, booked after 57 minutes for clattering into Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Another goal hovered closer when Gervinho went clear on the left side of the Milan box, but his deflected shot hit the legs of the keeper, with Van Persie's follow-up hit straight at a relieved Abbiati.

A careless pass from Szczesny almost proved costly as Ibrahimovic wrestled the loose ball from Song, but shot wide from 25 yards past the backtracking, and embarrassed, Arsenal number one.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was replaced by Morocco striker Marouane Chamakh as Wenger injected a new dimension to the frontline.

Nocerino should have put the result beyond any doubt when he arrived at the back post onto Alberto Aquilani's low cross, but stabbed a tame effort straight at Szczesny.

Walcott, who looked to have picked up a knock, was replaced for the final six minutes by Korean forward Park Ju-young, who has seen little action since his summer move from Monaco - but Arsenal were unable to get a late chance and Milan went through to the quarter-finals.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor