Arsenal Vs AC Milan: Highlights and analysis – Job done

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 15: Danny Welbeck of Arsenal celebrates his penalty with Hector Bellerin and Aaron Ramsey during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Arsenal and AC Milan at Emirates Stadium on March 15, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 15: Danny Welbeck of Arsenal celebrates his penalty with Hector Bellerin and Aaron Ramsey during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Arsenal and AC Milan at Emirates Stadium on March 15, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) /

Arsenal hosted AC Milan in the second leg of the last-16 Europa League tie on Thursday night. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and the analysis of the 3-1 win.

There were moments of uncertainty; there were periods of control. There were some lapses in concentration; there were some lovely, free-flowing moves. There were some missed opportunities; there were some fortunate decisions. However, you want to cut it, this was a game very much in the balance. Thankfully for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, the scales tipped in their favour.

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The very first minute proved exactly why nobody trusted Arsenal to see this game through, even with a two-goal advantage from the first leg. A Milan scamper down the right flank exposed Nacho Monreal, pulled Laurent Koscielny across to cover and left a lovely little pocket of space in the inside of the penalty area for Andre Silva to slip into. He was found with a nice cut-back, but his first-time effort was only turned into the near-post side netting. It was a very good opportunity, one that David Ospina should have been tested by. The game management of this club is truly laughable.

After that somewhat concerning moment, the game settled into a nice pattern: Arsenal enjoyed much of the ball, with Milan hesitant to press high up the pitch and, at times, found a little disjointed and unorganised, allowing the hosts to easily play through the spaces that subsequently opened up, but chances, at both ends, were difficult to fashion.

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In fact, in the first 30 minutes, Arsenal had just two shots on goal: A floated header from Laurent Koscielny in the fifth minute from a corner; a Danny Welbeck shot that was hit straight at Gigio Donnarumma from a tight angle after a sweeping break involving some nice link-up play between the striker and Mesut Ozil. It was, for the Gunners, a good kind of boring.

And then, suddenly, just after the half-hour mark, just as the game was slumping into its most lethargic of lulls, Hakan Calhanoglu stoked the fire. Cutting inside from the left flank, with Hector Bellerin tentative to follow, Shkodran Mustafi, perhaps wisely, unwilling to step out from his centre-half position, and then Granit Xhaka slow to get across from midfield, the man renowned for his striking from distance uncoiled a dipping, diving shot that nestled past the stretch of David Ospina and into the far corner. Game on. Sadly.

At this point, like most, I feared the worst. Arsenal have a habit of capitulating when the pressure hypes up. But not this time. This goal galvanised them, and quite brilliantly so. The following minutes after the goal, Arsenal dominated the game, camped on the edge of the Milan area. Aaron Ramsey had a shot well saved by Gigio Donnarumma, while Arsenal preserved their command, flying to every loose ball, piling on the pressure.

They were rewarded for their efforts. Danny Welbeck, sliding in behind the Milan defence, went down in the box. Left-back Ricardo Rodriguez was adjudged to have pulled him down. His arm certainly made contact with Welbeck’s shoulder and veered the striker off course, but it was a very, very kind penalty, not that many in the Emirates were complaining. It was then Welbeck himself who, surprisingly and scarily, stepped up to take the resultant spot-kick. Thankfully, he rolled it into the bottom corner with great precision and composure, sending Donnarumma the wrong way.

Arsenal proceeded to dominate the remainder of the half, searching for the second goal to kill the tie. Jack Wilshere had a fierce shot that Aaron Ramsey nearly bundled in on the rebound, just after Henrikh Mkhitaryan had nodded marginally wide of the goal after an inventive flick back into the box by Danny Welbeck at the far post. The teams entered the half level. The game was very much in the balance. But given Arsenal’s history in such circumstances, it was hard not to be happy about their response. Nevertheless, work was still to be done.

There were chances at both ends early in the second half. While Henrikh Mkhitaryan was curling a shot towards the near post that was palmed clear, Kessie was shooting from distance; while Shkodran Mustafi was heading over from a corner, Suso was dragging a shot wide by his favoured left foot; while Aaron Ramsey was firing over from the edge of the area after some lovely work by Mesut Ozil, Patrick Cutrone was missing the half’s best chance, volleying past David Ospina’s post from near the penalty spot.

The game then turned on the following ten minutes. Nikola Kalinic was introduced. His first touch was to direct a tremendous cross from Leonardo Bonucci straight into the grateful arms of David Ospina. He should have scored, or at least tested Ospina to a far greater extent. And then, three minutes later, Granit Xhaka ended the tie. Afforded greater space than Milan would have liked in midfield, the Swiss international, who again impressed, stepped up towards the edge of the penalty and bought his lottery ticket. Gigio Donnarumma should have saved it, comfortably. He dived across to cover the angle, got his hand on the shot, but only allowed it to squirm into the goal. Game over.

Wenger took the opportunity to alter the formation a little. Mohamed Elneny had already been introduced for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to bolster a midfield battle that Arsenal were beginning to cede control in. The final substitution was Sead Kolasinac for Mesut Ozil, with Nacho Monreal sliding into centre-half and the Gunners adopting a 3-5-2 shape. Wenger, rightly, was making sure.

Arsenal actually ended the game in the ascendency. Danny Welbeck scored his second of the night, after some lovely play by Jack Wilshere, who waited patiently before clipping a cross into the penalty area from the by-line, nodding in Aaron Ramsey’s saved effort, and Wilshere was close to a wonderful fourth after some quick, tricky play on the edge of the penalty area, just sliding his shot past the far post.

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In the end, this was a fairly comfortable victory for Arsenal. But that does not mean that it didn’t come with its moments of uncertainty. Milan scored first. The penalty was kind. Chances were missed. Nevertheless, it is the Gunners who will progress, and that is very good news indeed.