The match didn’t start how Arsenal wanted, but it definitely finished that way. Hakan Çalhanoğlu put A.C. Milan ahead in the 35th minute with a 25-yard rocket that David Ospina was slow to react to. The palpable sense of dread that filled the Emirates after the goal was apparent even from the T.V. broadcast, but it didn’t last long. Just four minutes later, Danny Welbeck won and converted a penalty to even the match.
The penalty was a controversial one. There appeared to be contact, albeit slight, on Welbeck, and when you’re running at full speed, that’s all it takes to knock you off balance. Without question Welbeck made the most of it and did not try to stay on his feet. Was it a dive? Maybe, but simulation is an unfortunate part of modern football. I’d prefer if it went away entirely, but when the cost of getting caught is a yellow card and the benefit is a penalty kick, that isn’t going to happen.
Granit Xhaka sealed the tie for Arsenal in the 71st minute with a long range shot that keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma probably should have kept out. Welbeck put the icing on the cake with an 86th minute headed goal, and Arsenal advanced 5-1 on aggregate. Fun fact courtesy of @OptaJoe: this is the first time since 2003-04 that Arsenal have won both legs of a European tie, when they beat Celta Vigo in the Champions League round of 16.
Credit to Milan - they did not roll over. They generated some good chances in the second half, but David Ospina was equal to them. The Rossoneri are a significantly improved side from past years and should return to their former glory in the coming seasons, but Arsenal were the better side throughout the tie. The Gunners dominated possession and created more chances in both matches.
The only blemish on the evening was that Laurent Koscielny left very early with an apparent back injury. Calum Chambers deputized well for the Frenchman and is in the midst of a good run of form. Hopefully Koscielny’s injury is not a serious one. The good news is he has a bit of time to recover; as of right now, Arsenal are not scheduled to play again for more than two weeks because the upcoming Leicester match has been postponed.
Arsenal join Atletico Madrid, CSKA Moscow, Lazio, Marseille, RB Leipzig, Salzburg, and Sporting CP in the Europa League quarterfinals. The draw will take place tomorrow at 8 am ET. Check back for coverage and analysis of Arsenal’s draw.