By JOHN BOSCHINI
Despite the theatrics, the four-goal deficit was just too much for Arsenal to overcome.
The Gunners fell just short of a would-be historic UEFA Champions League effort, defeating AC Milan 3-0 but still finishing a goal shy of the Italians over the course of both legs, as Milan advanced to the quarterfinals on a 4-3 aggregate. Laurent Koscieny and Tomas Rosicky scored, and Robin van Persie capped a wild first half when he converted a penalty kick that had Arsenal fans believing in the impossible.
AC Milan eventually settled down and were able to keep Arsenal from getting a second-half goal. The best chance of the second half came just before the hour mark when van Persie should have blasted a short-range effort home but instead attempted to chip over goalkeeper Christian Abbiati, who snared the would-be equalizer.
Arsenal were off to a dream start as Koscielny headed home Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's corner after just five minutes. A Milan defending blunder led to the second Arsenal goal, as Thiago Silva's clearance found its way to Rosicky, who made no mistake from 18 yards out.
The Emirates was whipped into hysterics in the 43rd minute when van Persie smashed home a penalty that Oxlade-Chamberlain drew.
Arsenal clearly had momentum heading into the second half, but AC Milan managed to organize and control possession. The visitors were actually unlucky to not get an away goal that would have put the tie to bed. Zlatan Ibrahimovic failed to take advantage of a blunder from Wojciech Szczesny and fired his close-range shot wide. Antonio Nocerino then wound up at the end of a cross by the far post but sent his shot from merely three yards out directly at the Arsenal goalkeeper.
Arsenal poured forward in the final 10 minutes, but misplaced passes and a few offsides flags did not yield a decent chance to equalize.
As a result, Chelsea is the only English team remaining in the competition. The last time no English team made the quarterfinals of the Champions League was in the 1995-1996 season. Chelsea trails Napoli 3-1 entering the home leg of their tie.
BENFICA 2, ZENIT ST. PETERSBURG 0 (Benfica advances 4-3 on aggregate)
Benfica did enough to erase a first-leg deficit and sneak by Zenit St. Petersburg and into the quarterfinals with a home victory in Tuesday's other game. Maxi Pereira scored in first-half stoppage time to knot the aggregate at 3-3, while Nelson Oliveira added an insurance goal late to send Benfica through.
Zenit St Petersburg offered precious little in terms of offense. The visitors only managed six shots in total and their two shots on target came from a harmless efforts from outside the box.
The opener for Benfica came just before halftime when Pereira powered the ball home from close range following a scramble in the box. Zenit controlled most of the possession in the second half but were never much of a threat. The tie was put beyond all doubt in second half stoppage time with a chip from Oliveira.
What do you think of today's results? Disapointed Arsenal couldn't pull off the comeback? Do you think Benfica can keep its run going?
Share your thoughts below.