Arsenal beats AC Milan to qualify for the Quarter finals in the UEFA EUROPA CUP

A game of emotions was encapsulated by Gennaro Gattuso’s gesticulations on the touchline as Arsenal secured their place in the Europa League quarter-finals with a 3-1 win over AC Milan at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal

It could and arguably should have been tighter than the scoreline suggested after Hakan Calhanoglu’s ferocious first-half strike caught goalkeeper David Ospina on his toes.

The Colombian could have perhaps gotten a hand on the strike but it was a delicious effort worthy of winning such a glamorous European tie, although on this occasion it wasn’t to be for a team who went into the first leg an impressive 13 games unbeaten under Gattuso.

Danny Welbeck’s last goal in European competition was almost four years ago and he played like a man with increased confidence following his call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad earlier in the day.

Welbeck has struggled to influence games in recent weeks but provided the talking point of the match shortly before half-time when he appeared to dive in the box with Milan defender Ricardo Rodriguez close to him.

Outrage is Gattuso’s default setting, and on this occasion you could hardly  disagree with him. His team had cut the deficit from the first leg at San  Siro to a single goal before the Welbeck penalty had changed the complexion  of the tie. That equaliser stuck in Milan throats and no wonder given that  they had scored a beautiful opener, Hakan Calhanoglu striking a fading  right-footed shot across the badly positioned David Ospina and into the far  corner.

The Turkey international had seen the Arsenal goalkeeper had left too much  space to his left and picked his spot despite Granit Xhaka’s attempts to  close it down. The home side had invited the trouble, backing off Milan for  no good reason and allowing the Italians more territory than they ever  really deserved.

Wenger had lost Laurent Koscienly to injury early in the game, a jarring of  his back when he landed from a leap to head the ball clear. Welbeck had  gone through down the left channel and had his shot blocked by Gianluigi  Donnarumma. Then Milan scored and at last Arsenal stepped up the pitch,  played around Milan’s box and started asking some questions of their  opposition.

Donnarumma had already stopped a a shot from Aaron Ramsey when Jack  Wilshere laid the ball off to Henrikh Mkhitaryan who slipped a pass through  the defensive line for Welbeck to chase down to the goalline. The Swiss  left-back Ricardo Rodriguez checked his run behind Welbeck and there was no  contact of any note before the Arsenal man first got clear and then  collapsed.

The referee Eriksson hesitated at first and then seemed to take his lead  from the additional assistant Johannesson behind the goal who was just  yards from the incident. He gave the penalty and Milan were enraged.  Gattuso demanded an audience with the fourth official and generally there  was dismay all around. Penalty taking duties fell to Welbeck –  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was not on the pitch – and he did a good job of  sending Donnarumma the wrong way.

They might have had more goals in time added on at the end of the half when  Mkhitaryan headed wide from Welbeck’s knock down and Wilshere pinged a left  footed shot that Donnarumma got a hand to. They had benefitted from some  extraordinary good fortune but on the front foot Arsenal looked much better.

Xhaka’s shot in the 71st minute was a disaster for Donnarumma, the great  goalkeeping hope of a great goalkeeping nation, who flapped a relatively  harmless shot into his own goal. Welbeck’s second came when Ramsey’s header  from Wilshere’s cross was blocked and fell nicely for the striker to tidy  up. It will be encouraging for Gareth Southgate that Wilshere seemed only  to get stronger as the game progressed.

The midfielder was unfortunate not to score one himself and in the closing  stages, Milan opened up considerably. For the first time in a while in  Europe’s knockout rounds, Arsenal just had too much quality for these  particular opponents and they are five games from winning a competition  they never wanted to play in the first place.

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