Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ars 0-0 Mil: Kalac keeps Gunners silent

Champions League, Rd2, 1st leg - 20/2/08 (19.45)
Arsenal 0 - 0 Milan

Emirates Stadium


Zeljko Kalac and the crossbar allowed Milan to hold Arsenal to a goalless draw at the Emirates Stadium.

The Rossoneri welcomed Zeljko Kalac, Clarence Seedorf and Alexandre Pato back from injury, the 18-year-old making his Champions League debut after three weeks out with a sprained ankle. Nelson Dida's back and a serious Ronaldo knee injury ruled them out. As Manuel Almunia was sidelined, former Milan flop Jens Lehmann started in the Gunners' goal.

The Italians played with white shirts and black shorts, an unusual away strip. They had the first chance after four minutes, as Pato flicked the ball over a defender and his shot was delfected out for a corner off Kolo Toure'. Seedorf's resulting set-piece was flapped away from danger by Lehmann.

The goalkeeper immediately launched an Emmanuel Adebayor counter and Massimo Oddo's sliding tackle was decisive. On the corner Adebayor was given a talking to for an overhead kick that booted Kakha Kaladze in the face.

Toure' picked up an early injury and was replaced by Philippe Senderos. An Adebayor header was comfortably caught by Kalac, then Eduardo came sliding in just too late to meet Sagna's cross from the right.

Kaka failed to get past Cesc Fabregas after Oddo has skipped over Gael Clichy, but Pato was rather harshly booked as he tried to outsprint Sagnol and ran into the back of him.

Eduardo couldn't get any power on his header from a Fabregas free kick at the back post. Adebayor sent Maldini down and cut back for Mathieu Flamini, whose low shot was easily held by Kalac.

Pato sprinted into the box and Senderos did well to protect the ball. Fabregas was totally unmarked just inside the box on 42 minutes, but Adebayor's pass was too long and Milan breathed a sigh of relief.

Moments later Kalac did well to beat away a Flamini cross-shot after he had skipped past Andrea Pirlo. Straight after the restart Alessandro Nesta went down with an injury and before Marek Jankulovski could replace him, the corner was taken with Kaladze's clearance skimming the upright. This moved Maldini into the centre.

Kaka managed an odd looping cross from the byeline that scared Lehmann, but Arsenal went on the counter and Alexander Hleb rolled back for Eboue' to flash a shot past the far post. Adebayor did hit the back of the net, but was clearly offside.

Kalac came rushing out to smother the ball at Adebayor's feet from six yards. The Gunners were pouring forward now and Eduardo's left-foot strike sailed over the bar from the edge of the box.

It was a very open game now and Kaka threaded through for the unmarked Oddo, who drilled well wide from a promising position. At the other end Maldini got a decisive touch to knock Fabregas' brilliant cross off the foot of Adebayor clear on goal.

Kaka spun round and fired wide of the near post from distance, but there was absolute chaos on 70 miutes when Pato took advantage of a lucky ricochet and the ball was trapped in a sea of legs before Arsenal managed to clear.

Eduardo was clear on Adebayor's pass, but missed so badly it nearly hit the corner flag. He was substituted immediately after by Nicklas Bendtner and moments later Kalac got down well to smother a Fabregas effort, then Kaladze performed a crucial tackle on Bendtner.

Pato was suffering from cramp as he sprinted towards the box and made way for Alberto Gilardino. Eboue was booked for a dramatic dive over Jankulovski, as he ran into the Czech's leg.

Senderos had to close down Kaka as he was lining up the shot from eight yards, then Adebayor's volley was gathered by Kalac on his knees and the Australian goalkeeper plucked another strike out of the air.

Emerson was Ancelotti's final change for Seedorf and Gilardino's glancing header from a Pirlo corner kick was smothered by Lehmann. Another two Pirlo set-pieces were off target, but Arsenal wasted a golden opportunity created by Adebayor's header on, Bendtner eventually ballooning over.

Theo Walcott came on for Eboue' for the four minutes of stoppages and his volley from a cleared corner was well held by the secure Kalac, who was playing with a dislocated index finger in his right hand.

Arsenal thought they had scored in the final seconds of injury time, but Adebayor nodded Walcott's cross on to the bar with Kalac finally beaten from five yards.


Arsenal: Lehmann; Sagna, Gallas, Toure (Senderos 7), Clichy; Eboue' (Walcott 89), Fabregas, Flamini, Hleb; Adebayor, Eduardo (Bendtner 74)
Milan: Kalac; Oddo, Nesta (Jankulovski 50), Kaladze, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Kaka, Seedorf (Emerson 85); Pato (Gilardino 77)
Ref: Larsen (Den)

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