UCL Rewind: Milan dominates Arsenal, Zenit scores dramatic winner in first legs

UCL Rewind: Milan dominates Arsenal, Zenit scores dramatic winner in first legs

UEFA Champions League

UCL Rewind: Milan dominates Arsenal, Zenit scores dramatic winner in first legs

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AC Milan Getty


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.

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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.

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