Arsenal Vs. AC Milan, 2012 UEFA Champions League: Gunners One Goal Short Of Impossible Comeback

Somebody forgot to tell Arsenal that their Champions League round of 16 tie was decided in the first leg.

Having been destroyed 4-0 by AC Milan in Italy, Arsenal were supposed to just go away in the second leg, but they did no such thing. They played an incredible first half that, combined with mind-bogglingly awful Milan defending, got the Gunners within a goal on aggregate at the break. Despite being buoyed by a home crowd at the Emirates that suddenly began to believe, though, Arsenal couldn't finish the impossible comeback, and their 3-0 win saw them eliminated 4-3 on aggregate.

It took just seven minutes for Arsenal to be given life. A corner kick opened the door for the Gunners and the much-maligned Laurent Koscielny took advantage. The central defender had been responsible for several goals going in Arsenal's net of late, but he got it right this time and headed home the corner kick to give the home side a chance.

That chance became a real possibility before the half-hour mark when Tomas Rosicky brought the Gunners within two. Theo Walcott broke down the right and got space to cross, only he crossed for Thiago Silva. The horrible Milan defending even hit their best defender, though, and what should have been an easy clearance looked more like a pass straight to Rosicky. A gift or not, Arsenal weren't about to complain, especially not when Rosicky scored off of the Silva pass to put Arsenal in business.

Arsenal would have been happy to be down just two at halftime, but the shambolic Milan defending helped them get one goal closer just before the break. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got free down the right, but he had little support. Two Milan defenders closed on him and left him nowhere to go, but that didn't matter to the visitors, who ran Oxlade-Chamberlain over. The referee had no choice but to point to the spot, and Robin van Persie blasted home the penalty to put Arsenal just one goal away from the impossible comeback.

The chances didn't go away for Arsenal in the second half, but they were curtailed. Milan woke up at halftime and even if they did not defend well, they were not giving away chance after chance like they did in the first half. Mark van Bommel turned things around with a fantastic second half after a dreadful first half and stabilized the Milan midfield, who should have had no problem against an Arsenal team with one true central midfielder on the pitch.

Milan almost put the tie to bed 15 minutes from fulltime when a crafty play off a throw-in broke down the Arsenal defense. It led to a low cross from the right across the face of the goal to Antonio Nocerino on the far post. Nocerino was unmarked and just had to tap the ball across the line from a yard out, but instead he hit the ball back towards the middle where Wojciech Szczęsny was waiting. The ball hit Szczęsny, who looked as stunned as anyone that Nocerino did not finish, and the Gunners were still alive.

Even as time wore on, Arsenal did not give up the dream of the impossible comeback. They brought on Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young to give them three forwards and van Persie had a chance from three yards to equalize, but he missed the frame.

In the end, the Gunners just didn't have enough. As brilliantly entertaining as they made a second leg that should have been a victory lap for Milan, the Gunners fell a goal short and their Champions League run came to an end, while Milan were on to the quarterfinals.

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