Milan absolutely dominated Arsenal in the first leg of their Champions League clash, winning 4-0 with Kevin-Prince Boateng, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a Robinho brace.
The Rossoneri hoped to break their curse of three consecutive Champions League exits at the Last 16 stage to English opposition. The injury crisis was beginning to calm down, as Kevin-Prince Boateng returned to the starting XI, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic was able to play because his three-match ban only applies to Serie A. Arsenal missed Per Mertesacker, but welcomed back Kieran Gibbs after four months out.
Clarence Seedorf hit the side-netting from the edge of the box, but the Dutch veteran immediately picked up an injury. He tried to run it off, but eventually had to be replaced by Urby Emanuelson. Just moments after stepping on to the pitch, Ibra knocked down a Boateng pass for Emanuelson to drill wide.
Milan took the lead thanks to a moment of magic from the returning Prince. He chested down a ball over the top and let it bounce before smashing the right-foot shot on the volley from a tight angle in off the underside of the crossbar.
Antonio Nocerino attempted a not dissimilar attempt, but this time it was just over the bar from the edge of the box.
Ibrahimovic pounced on a Thomas Vermaelen error to go clear, but was closed down by the goalkeeper and rather harshly the referee too.
Robinho also went on the counter after another Vermaelen error, but again could not finish off the move by rolling across to Ibra because Laurent Koscielny intercepted.
Milan doubled their advantage when Ibrahimovic sprung the offside trap down the left and pulled back from the by-line for the simplest of Robinho headers into the ground from seven yards.
The Ibrahimovic diving header from Boateng’s curling cross was blocked off by Bacary Sagna using his body as a shield from point-blank range. Arsenal had to make a substitution too, as Koscielny came off.
In first half stoppages, Boateng broke away down the right and his screamer hit the side-netting. Luca Antonini rushed through the middle of the Arsenal defence on to an Ibra pass, but Wojiech Szczesny bravely rushed off his line to charge down in a heavy collision. The defender was rather harshly booked, as it seemed to be a clean attempt on the ball.
After the restart Thierry Henry replaced a quiet Theo Walcott for his final game, as he returns to New York Red Bull tomorrow. Substitute Johan Djourou was at full stretch to intercept an Ibrahimovic pass for Boateng in the six-yard box.
However, Milan made it 3-0, as Vermaelen slipped again to leave Robinho the space to pick his spot, firing low at the near post from the D.
Boateng’s first touch let him down when going past Gibbs, then Antonini went on the counter and fired well wide with his weaker left foot. Robinho’s shot was charged down in the area when he probably should’ve rolled across to Ibra.
Aaron Ramsey’s header was over the bar from a corner, but had a great chance on 65 minutes when Henry flicked up a pass for Robin van Persie’s stunning volley, but Christian Abbiati pulled out an equally impressive save.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Gibbs, moving Vermaelen into left-back. Another van Persie volley was easier for Abbiati to smother at the near post.
Djourou tripped Ibrahimovic after the Swede changed direction to go past him and the referee pointed to the spot. Zlatan stepped up to take it himself and buried it despite Szczesny getting the right angle.
Alexandre Pato also made his comeback after another thigh injury, replacing Robinho for the final minutes. Abbiati needed another good save on van Persie’s downward header, but Emanuelson wasted the chance for a fifth by ballooning off target. Pato had a good opportunity with the final kick of the game, but was denied by a one-handed Szczesny save.
Milan 4-0 Arsenal
Scorers: Boateng 16 (M), Robinho 38, 49 (M), Ibrahimovic pen 79 (M)
Milan: Abbiati; Abate, Thiago Silva, Mexes, Antonini; Van Bommel, Nocerino, Seedorf (Emanuelson 12); Boateng (Ambrosini 70); Ibrahimovic, Robinho (Pato 83)
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny (Djourou 44), Vermaelen, Gibbs (Oxlade-Chamberlain 66); Song, Rosicky; Walcott (Henry 46), Ramsey, Arteta; van Persie
Ref: Kassai (HUN)