A dramatic eighty-fourth minute strike from Cesc Fabregas and a final ninetieth minute blow from the foot of Emmanuel Adebayor helped Arsenal pull off a famous victory against AC Milan at San Siro. It was the first time that the Italians had faced defeat on the hands of an English side at home.
With a goalless tie a fortnight ago at Arsenal’s home, Emirates, it looked as if the match was heading towards extra time until the strike by Fabregas gave a one-goal lead to the visitors. It appeared that the balance had tilted towards Arsenal as the hosts had to score two goals in a little more than six-minute time duration to ensure them moving on to the next stage of the Champions League. What made it more difficult was that even a 1-1 full-time score would have taken Arsenal to the next round on account of greater number of ‘Away’ goals. Nevertheless, of all the speculation and excitement, spectators witnessed one more goal, not by the hosts, but Arsenal that served as the final nail. Adebayor did acknowledge the goal to be a simple one, right in front of the post but said that it was one of the most important goals of his career with superb assistance from the teenager Theo Walcott.
The game was evenly balanced right from the time the whistle blew with both teams creating chances but finding it hard to beat the defenders. Fabregas, in particular, displayed a spectacular performance from the beginning itself when he denied an early lead to the hosts by making a goal-line clearance in response to the flick by Maldini that came off on a corner. He was consistently commanding the ball and overshadowing Milan’s star-studded experienced midfield trio of Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso.
It was one of the best performances by the young Arsenal side, who simply dominated Milan’s ageing stars. Their victory was well acknowledged by AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani who said, “We have been unlucky to have met Arsenal in the last 16. Arsenal played better in both legs and deserved to go through.”. Even the playmaker Kaka as well who accepted that his team lost against a team who played better than they did. The Milan supporters joined their Arsenal counterparts, applauding for Wenger and his team.
Apart from the spectacular display of football, the world also witnessed the twilight of some of the football’s most potent gods, Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta. It was Maldini’s last match in Champions League and Nesta is in his last season. Quite many of the young Arsenal guns did not even learn how to walk by the time Maldini made his debut.
Arsenal now moves on to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Milan, on the other hand, will be looking at the qualifying for next season’s Champions League by securing a fourth position.
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