AC Milan doubled their already comfortable 2-0 half-time advantage to emphatically defeat Arsenal 4-0 at San Siro in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between the two sides.
Former Manchester City striker Robinho scored either side of the break. Meanwhile, either side of the Brazilian’s brace, there was a stunning volley from Kevin-Prince Boateng to open the scoring and a clinical penalty from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to end the scoring.
Ibrahimovic, who screamed with intensity after converting his spot-kick, was allegedly brought down inside the box by substitute Johan Djourou, despite replays suggesting no concrete evidence of a foul.
Nevertheless, tonight’s sublime performance from the Italian champions certainly merited the result and the confidence was bursting out of the stands in Milan as the Rossoneri supporters also hope to convert this European success into domestic supremacy, which is currently threatened by Juventus.
In the visitors’ dressing room, things can’t be any more different. Arsenal have never been in the title race this year and to accept the bitter truth, they have never been considered legitimate contenders in years now.
On the European stage, they have been even bigger underdogs, failing to exhibit the quality that it takes to stand out among the continent’s most elite teams.
Last year, with Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, and Jack Wilshere in the line-up, they topped Barcelona 2-1 in the first leg at home before crumbling at the same stage in the second leg at Camp Nou.
Granted, a lot went against the Gunners in terms of questionable officiating that night in Catalunya. But this year, with the decisive leg at the Emirates, they had no excuses preventing them from simply going out there and keeping the tie alive in Milan.
Unfortunately, Arsene Wenger’s men were played out of the park from minute one. Despite a call for urgency issued by Mikel Arteta, the likes of Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky seriously lacked creativity up front.
With limited assistance and heavy man-marking, skipper Robin van Persie was forced to become nearly anonymous throughout the night.
Thomas Vermaelen turned in perhaps his worst defensive performance as a Gunner, with his early second-half slip-up allowing Robinho to put the tie out of question by handing Milan a nearly unassailable 3-0 lead.
Adding to the misery was a disappointing injury to Laurent Koscielny, who had appeared to be the Gunners’ best player in the 44 minutes he played out.
Youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came off the bench in an attempt to spark a revival but it was clearly not his night.
And to the dismay of the Arsenal faithful, the night did not belong to the legendary Thierry Henry either.
In his last match as a Gunner this season, Henry could not turn his recent form into anything tangible tonight. Merely four minutes upon his arrival on the pitch, Arsenal were virtually out of the tie with a three-goal deficit that was only extended later in the night.
With their bags packed, Wenger’s men will now head out of Italy knowing that Saturday’s FA Cup clash against Sunderland is their only realistic hope of silverware this season.
Sadly, Henry won’t even be at Wearside to sink the Black Cats with the heroics that helped Arsenal claim a late 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light this past weekend.