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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Night That Could Have Been

It looked like it would be a night of mass celebration, I was expecting street drinking and mass parties in the Islington area, much like the end scene in 'Fever Pitch', instead, most of us will probably go to bed watching 'Fever Pitch' and thinking of what could have been.
After seven minutes an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain corner was scored by Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal were away. AC Milan looked very unsettled and whilst every commentator and 'expert' in the land were telling me how this is still rather “impossible” I was dancing round my room celebrating and scaring the neighbours.
The referee, it has to be said, had a stinker. Mass Yellow Cards shown to both sides within the first half for first-offences meant that the game's pace slowed. Surprisingly he did not dismiss anyone within the ninety minutes, not even looking at his pocket in the second except for two yellow cards for Milan players: Nocerino and Ibrahimovic.
Arsenal made it look even more possible when a poor clearance from Milan's shaky back four gifted Tomas Rosicky a chance he took perfectly. It was 2-0 Arsenal and less than a third of the game had passed. It looked like it was actually going to be our night.
Milan quickly reverted to keep ball, try and waste the clock but their left back Mesbah had different ideas. An Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain run was halted by a foul within the eighteen yard box and a rightful penalty was given after much consideration.
As ever Robin Van Persie converted to make it 3-0, all Arsenal needed was another and no reply and we would get extra time, a fifth and no reply and they were through.
Milan then began to play and young El Shaarawy should have made it 3-1 before Half Time but blazed his one on one wide by some margin. It was a miss that seemed to indicate it was Arsenal's night, it would be Arsenal's night but not their pathway to overall progression.
Arsenal failed to score again second half, their closest chance fell to Robin Van Persie who like fellow Dutchman Dirk Kuyt on Saturday effectively handed it back to the goalkeeper. It was from then on Milan took charge.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seemed to over-stretch early first half leaving him near ineffectual for the rest of his time on the pitch and Theo Walcott also took a knock meaning he would have to go off too. Arsenal brought on both Park and Chamakh to try and nick an equaliser late on, it wasn't to be.
Milan dominated most of the second half but continued to waste chances leaving Szczesny with a clean sheet. Despite their great efforts, Arsenal couldn't find that fourth. It must still go down as a great night in at least Emirates Stadium history despite the overall loss. If Arsenal can continue their great form of late, they must surely be near contenders for third, not only fourth.

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