By JOHN BOSCHINI
Humiliation is the only word for what occurred at the San Siro on Wednesday.
Arsene Wenger saw his UEFA Champions League dreams go down in flames as AC Milan thrashed Arsenal 4-0 in one-sided performance that leaves the Gunners on the brink of an early elimination and has the Serie A leaders in prime position for a place in the quarterfinals.
Kevin Prince-Boateng opened the scoring with a highlight-reel volley, Robinho added a brace and Zlatan Ibrahimovic converted a penalty in a game that saw Arsenal offer little in the way of an attack. It was an unimpressive send off for Thierry Henry, who appeared as a halftime substitute but made no real impact in his final game on loan from the New York Red Bulls.
Boateng capitalized on a strong start from Milan by chesting a pass through the Arsenal defense and firing a rocket past Wojciech Szczesny in the 12th minute. Robinho doubled the lead before halftime with a header off Ibrahimovic's cross.
The Brazilian had Milan's third goal when Thomas Vermaelen's slip allowed Robinho to fire low past Szczesny. Ibrahimovic completed the rout in the 79th minute when the Swede converted a penalty he drew himself.
Arsenal head back to the Emirates with little hope of overturning the massive margin, needing to post a 4-0 shutout just to force extra time or win by a margin of at least five should Milan score in order to advance into the Champions League quarterfinals.
ZENIT-ST. PETERSBURG 3, BENFICA 2
Roman Shirokov's winner in the waning minutes gave Zenit-St. Petersburg a thrilling home win in their tie against Benfica on a cold night in Russia. Oscar Cardozo seemed to have earned a draw for Benfica with a goal in the 87th minute that knotted the score at two.
Cardozo's late goal came from a goalkeeping error when a bungled save allowed for an easy rebound, but Benfica's defense fell apart in the final minutes allowing Shirokov to snatch a winner.
Benfica had jumped out to an early lead through a Maxi Pereira goal. Zenit goalkeeper Yuri Zhenov parried Cardozo's shot right into the path of Pereira, who turned to the rebound in for a goal in the 20th minute. Seven minutes later the home side drew level, as Shirokov scored his first of the night by finishing off a beautiful cross from Tomas Hubocan.
Zenit took the lead midway through the second half when Sergei Semak finished off a nifty bit of passing with a well-taken back heel.
Despite the loss, the Portuguese visitors have to like their chances after registering two away goals. Zenit, which snapped Benfica's 11-match winning streak across all competitions, failed to win a game on the road in their group campaign, but would advance with a draw of any kind.
The four teams meet in their respective away legs on March 6.
What did you think of today's games? Impressed with Milan's emphatic victory? Disappointed Henry didn't do more in his loan finale? If you're Arsenal, where do you go from here?
Share your thoughts below.
Tell us about when they started putting the nets on the back of the goal posts. Man, I don’t know why they started that.
Not that I disagree with you, but the cap should be higher. And we are not talking about paying millions of dollars to every squad member. It is a travesty that the talented young national team players like Agudelo and Hamid are making around 55K per year. This type of salary is inadequate even for non-athletes, who live in the NY and DC areas, where they play.
The MLS would be in big financial trouble without the salary cap. The designated player rule helps, but it seems as though only the big markets will spend money on the 1-3 players you can designate. Unless the US tv markets figure out a way to show bud-light commercials in the middle of a broadcasted soccer match, it’ll be another 5-10 can compare with some of the higher profile south american leagues, let alone europe. The owners just wont throw millions out there to the super star players that are in european line-ups. At least not anytime soon.
You are correct about these three teams being significantly better than the rest of the league, but even the minnows have bigger budgets than salary cap strapped MLS teams. And Dnepr was eliminated by Fulham from EL, not by a Polish team, and only on the goal difference after splitting their games 3-1 and 0-1. Perpahs you are thinking about Wisla finishing ahead of Fulham in the group play. Drepr actually has a Spanish manager, some Brazilian and Croatian players, and their budget is slightly below of the big three, but they constantly underachieve. Yes, the top MLS teams like Galaxy will be competitive against the minnows of Ukrainian league, but top Ukrainian teams are stronger than any MLS team.
grumpy ol’ dog
I believe I know a thing or two about Ukrainian League. The UEFA coefficients are misleading in this case because only 4-5 teams that play in Europe matter. And in Ukraine you have 3 teams that are way above MLS’s average level, a few who are at or slightly above MLS and the rest who are below. As soon as Vorskla or even Dnepr play a Polish team in EL, they lose.
Its not the end of the EPL. Its just not the year for EPL in Europe. We are still the best (in my opinion) but I agree that the English game has lost what it had. I think the FA should work on this (this will never happen though), work on getting all the classic English teams back into the EPL. Leeds United, Sheffield United, Preston etc. These are entertaining clubs. I always watch the Championship and League 1 and these clubs have the passion and should be in the Prem. It would really add some spice to the league. Also get Wigan, Blackburn and Stoke out. I just dont like them. Also I cant wait till daylight savings pass because now when I watch the Premier League it is always night time. Even a 3:30 match is at night practically.
I love it when it is just a normal EPL match, no music from the TV (that FSC stuff pisses me off, same with ESPN), and the sun glittering on the pitch. Those where the days. Now a days, I dont know, I just dont like the HD. I like the classic look for when watching EPL matches with proper commentators. When will we see more guys like Martin Tyler and Alan Smith.
I think you underestimate Ukrainian league- they are currently ranked No.8 in Europe right between Russian and Dutch leagues, but is in the bottom 5 on this list. Shakhtar was in the quarterfinals of the 2010-2011 Champions league finishing at the top of the group that included Arsenal (with Fabergas and Nasri) and that was just a year after Shakhtar won Europa league. Dynamo Kiev eliminated ManCity from 2010-2011 Europa league. This year, Metalist beat Sochaux 4-0 in France and finished at the top of its group in Europa league this year with a 6 point lead. The group included AZ Alkamar, which is currently in the second place in the Dutch league. I don’t think any MLS teams are capable to win Europa league at this time or win a group in the UEFA Champions league.
Nothing against Arsenal but any EPL loss puts a dart into blowhard SAF who has anointed himself King of EPL football.
He has earned this station, ” All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely ”
Judge, jury, and executioner for every deed.
MLS can play with your bottom five, some quite easily. I agree with the list though.
So much for the overrated, media-hyped, kick-and-run style, English Premier League. Based on current form, I won’t be surprised if Napoli knocks out Chelski as well.
Good riddance. Raving lunatics still admire “honest” teams like Stoke City…
I guess Arsenal went to Milan 4 – nothing…
I think that is pretty realistic. You can debate when you get down towards the end of the list (championship, greece, denmark) about MLS’s exact placement. Overall though, I agree.
Not much left after naming off all those leagues. I guess there is nowhere to go but up for the MLS
This list is no really in any order, it just happened to be in what order they came into my head.
I think Germany or Italy have the top league at this point, and I’d give it to Italy.
I think MLS falls somewhere around 15-20 in the world.
I think these leagues are above MLS, and some others are probably on par or slightly better.
Wow so in all likelihood there will only be one English team left after this stage. My oh my how English football has fallen.
If we rated the world soccer leagues from #1 on down the line, where would the MLS fall in once we get past the european leagues?
just wondering what you guys think?
Arsenal didn’t have a shot on goal til like the 60th minute or so
or milan playing an mls team.
Doubt he ever gets sacked. I believe he’s achieved Sir Alex status with the Arsenal front office and board of directors.
As for the game, that was like an MLS team playing a college team.
…Robinho is sick! too bad he didnt work out in the EPL….he set the tone for the entire match. Arsenal’s old dawg manager needs some new tricks. Does anyone think Wenger will get sacked if the gunners dont make the top 4 in the EPL?