Regular readers of this sports section are aware that we followed the fortunes of Ostersunds FK during the Europa league up to their defeat against the “Gunners”. Following time honoured tradition it was decided to follow Arsenal’s progress in the same competition.
The “Gunners” will play CSKA Moscow in the next round of the competition. The first leg is at the Emirates Stadium on 5th April with the return leg in Moscow a week later. CSKA played Manchester United in the Champions’ League group stage, losing 4-1 at home and 2-1 at Old Trafford. Bets are already being laid down in Las Vegas on whether Arsene Wenger will be phoning Jose Mourinho for a friendly chat. Thoughts on this anyone?
Arsenal reached the last 8 with an impressive 5-1 aggregate win over AC Milan. England striker Danny Welbeck scored twice – either side of a long-range strike from Granit Xhaka – as Arsene Wenger’s team won the second leg 3-1. The victory meanS the “Gunners” will play in their first European quarter-final since 2010, when they were knocked out of the Champions League 6-3 on aggregate by Barcelona.
Hakan Calhanoglu had opened the scoring for Milan. The 32 capped Turkish international Calhanoglu produced a stunning finish from 30 yards to give the Italians the lead. The Gunners levelled within four minutes through Welbeck, who was controversially awarded a penalty after going down under minimal contact from Ricardo Rodriguez. Xhaka’s long-range effort bobbled into the net for Arsenal’s second after poor goalkeeping by Milan’s highly rated Gianluigi Donnarumma, before Welbeck headed in a third. It was a smooth, polished workmanlike performance from Arsenal over the two legs. Unfortunately, the main talking point from the second leg was Welbecks “dive”. Certainly that moment will linger in the minds of the loyal supporters who watched the game in The Local. The dive will, unfortunately, overshadow a dominate performance from Arsenal.
This was Arsenal’s third win in a week after their first-leg victory in Milan and Sunday’s 3-0 Premier League defeat of Watford. Prior to that 2-0 victory at the San Siro, the Gunners had lost four successive games in all competitions. “It’s much better. We needed that to recover from our results,” Wenger said. “It shows how the team has responded. We had a difficult game but in the end we won it. If we have the results and the way to play football, the crowds will be behind us.”
“It was an open game. We played backwards a bit too much in the first half to protect the result. We played a very good side,” said Wenger. “We have to improve defensively, but overall we are team with technical quality which is more attack-minded. We struggle a bit more when we have to defend. We finished the game more compact and more solid.”
On the subject of Welbeck’s contentious penalty, Wenger said he would “give an honest answer” after re-watching the incident, but AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso insisted it was not a spot-kick and many would agree with him. “In the same way a player can make a mistake, a referee can do a mistake,” he said. “Even myself when I was a player, I would take advantage of individual situations. I’m not going to judge these things.”
We will, naturally, follow Arsenal’s journey in the Europa League and the games will be shown live at The Local.