Tuesday's Uefa Champions League Review 6/3
Arsenal fell narrowly short as they attempted to complete a stunning comeback against Italian champions AC Milan, while Benfica got the job done in Portugal.
Arsenal 3 (Koscielny 7’, Rosicky 26’, van Persie 43’ pen) def AC Milan 0
The Gunners almost made Champions League history in turning around a four-goal first-leg deficit. Arsenal raced to a three-goal advantage by the break at the Emirates Stadium, with Laurent Koscielny heading them ahead early, before Tomas Rosicky netted on 26 minutes. When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was brought down inside the box, up stepped Robin van Persie to make it 3-0 and the miracle was on. However, Milan improved after the break and had their chances to seal the tie, only to hold on for a narrow escape.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger praised his gallant side: “We put a performance in with fantastic spirit and restored some pride after the first leg. Unfortunately we are out but we had the chances. Overall we keep our winning run going, which is important, but unfortunately we paid the price for a bad first game.”
He added: “I told my players they can be proud of their performance. Overall I felt we were a bit short because we had no midfielders on the bench and we suffered a little bit when we tired in the second half. We wanted to keep the ball better but we became more fatigued and I’m sure we would have scored two or three more goals in the second half.”
Milan manager Max Allegri said: “I don’t think we were scared, as fortunately we had earned an important result in the first leg. At the break I told the players to think it was still 0-0 because we could not change what we had done in the first half. We failed to complete crucial passes tonight and that’s why we did not score.”
He added: “I knew we might have some difficulties because Arsenal are not the team we saw in San Siro and because we had too many players missing tonight, so I did not have many options.”
Benfica 2 (Maxi Pereira 45’, Nelson Oliveira 90’) def Zenit St Petersburg 0
Two goals late in each half earned the Portuguese runners-up their place in the final eight with a 2-0 victory over Russian side Zenit, who ultimately lost out 4-3 on aggregate. Maxi Pereira swept Benfica ahead on the stroke of half time and Oscar Cardozo should’ve all but sealed the tie in the second-half however he spurned a great chance. Zenit couldn’t fashion any way back into the tie and when Nelson Oliveira made it 2-0 in stoppage time, it was settled.
Benfica boss Jorge Jesus said: “Our tactics and strategy went well tonight. We were up against a great team, the best in Russia. It was important to score first as we knew they could cause us problems if we didn’t. Once we went ahead we were able to hit them on the counterattack.”
He added: “If possible we would like to face an English opponent in the next round, maybe Chelsea. I wouldn’t like to face Real Madrid, they have many Portuguese − and former Benfica − players.”
Zenit manager Luciano Spalletti said: “We must admit that Benfica deserved the victory. We underperformed and we still lack experience at this level. It has been a feature of our away games that our opponents have shown more quality and we have encountered a mental barrier that we need to overcome… Reaching the last 16 is a major achievement for us and we performed solidly all season. Today we weren’t so good.”
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