Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Mil 0-2 Ars: Fabregas ends Milan reign

Champions League, Rd2, 2d leg - 4/3/08 (19.45)
Milan 0 - 2 Arsenal
Fabregas 84 (A), Adebayor 92 (A)
Stadio Giuseppe Meazza


Cesc Fabregas performed a goalline clearance and scored Arsenal's late winner, as Milan's defence of the Champions League is ended.

With the first leg ending goalless, the Rossoneri needed a victory to qualify and threw on a trident attack with Kaka and Alexandre Pato supporting Champions League Final hero Pippo Inzaghi. Clarence Seedorf was not even fit for the bench, joining Marek Jankulovski, Serginho, Nelson Dida and Ronaldo on the sidelines. Arsenal made the trip without Eduardo, Tomas Rosicky and Kolo Toure', but Manuel Almunia returned between the posts.

Alexander Hleb blasted well over from distance, but the first real chance on seven minutes saw Pato dribbled past four Arsenal defenders and his left-foot strike was deflected out for a corner off Sagna.

From the resulting spot-kick the ball squirmed all the way through and Cesc Fabregas required a goalline clearance at the near post. The move continued and a cross was pushed off the head of Kakha Kaladze from seven yards.

Almunia rushed out to clear from Pato outside the box and on the counter Abou Diaby curled past the far post. It was mostly Milan in the opening stages and Inzaghi couldn't get enough power on his volley to truly trouble Almunia.

The Rossoneri had a fantastic chance on 19 minutes with Kaka sprinting away from Fabregas and crossing for the unmarked Pato at the back post, but the youngster hesitated and chipped a weak effort straight at Almunia.

Moments later Inzaghi was sent clear on goal by a Philippe Senderos header, but Gael Clichy dived in with a crucial clearance. From the corner Inzaghi's free header was off target.

Oddo held up the ball for Kaka to cut in from the right channel and hit a low snapshot inches past the base of the near post. Alessandro Nesta was struggling with a right thigh injury and passed straight to Emmanuel Adebayor, his strike fingertipped over the bar by Zeljko Kalac.

Hleb was harshly booked for simulation as he fell under a Nesta challenge just outside the box. Arsenal started to come out of their shell and Fabregas cracked a right-foot shot from the D against the bar with Kalac beaten.

Adebayor lost his footing in the box and allowed Gennaro Gattuso to clear, then the Arsenal striker scuffed from another good position. Kaka was clearly not 100 per cent fit yet after his injury worries and opted to pass to Pato rather than aim one of his trademark runs straight at the defence in acres of space.

Milan started the second half in similarly shaky fashion, as a corner came all the way to the back post for Senderos to fire straight at a grateful Kalac.

Pato drilled well wide from distance, but Andrea Pirlo gave the ball away to Adebayor foolishly in the D and Milan were fortunate Emmanuel Eboue' fired wide with only Kalac to beat.

The Rossoneri fought back as a dipping Pirlo free kick bounced just in front of Almunia and he pushed it round the upright with his forearm. Kaka went on a slalom dragging two Gunners behind him and fired wide of the near post, while Pato also shot off target.

Alberto Gilardino replaced Inzaghi and Theo Walcott came on for Eboue', as both sides tried to inject some fresh legs into attack with 20 minutes remaining. A corner was cleared to Oddo, whose snapshot hit Gilardino in front of Almunia.

There was absolute chaos in the Milan box, though. A free kick ricocheted around the area and Kalac used his legs to block Walcott's shot, eventually managing to smother it at the feet of Adebayor.

Pato didn't realise he was on side and a good counter was wasted, but soon after he skipped past Clichy and flashed a left-foot shot across the face of goal with a deflection, though the corner was not given.

Pato attempted an audacious curling shot from the edge of the area and it was easy for Almunia when he should perhaps have passed to Gilardino.

It needed a moment out of nowhere to break the deadlock in this tie and it came from Fabregas. He unleashed a sudden snapshot from 25 yards that may have taken a deflection off Nesta's elbow. on its way past Kalac at the near post.

This meant Milan needed two goals in the last five minutes to qualify, but their heads were down now and Arsenal found it easy to get a second on the counter. Kaladze failed to stop Walcott down the right and he crossed for a simple Adebayor tap-in.

Milan: Kalac; Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Kaka; Inzaghi (Gilardino 69), Pato
Arsenal: Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy; Eboue’ (Walcott 70), Flamini, Fabregas, Diaby; Hleb (Gilberto 89); Adebayor
Ref: Plautz (Aus)

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