Gunners fire up English sides

Arsenal produced one of their finest performances under Arsene Wenger on Tuesday to dethrone AC Milan, beating the Champions League holders 2-0 on the night and on aggregate in their last 16 second-leg clash.

Arsenal’s great Premiership rivals Manchester United—who had started a run of four matches without a win for the Gunners prior to Tuesday—also eased through with a 1-0 victory at home to six-time French champions Lyon thanks to Portuguese wizard Cristiano Ronaldo’s 30th goal in 30 matches this term.

Turkish side Fenerbahce also produced an outstanding away performance as they made the last eight for the first time, beating Spanish outfit Sevilla in a penalty shootout after the match ended 5-5 on aggregate. Sevilla won 3-2.

That ended the hosts’ dreams of a third successive European crown, having won the last two UEFA Cups.

Spanish pride was saved by Barcelona, who downed Arsenal in the 2006 Champions League final, as they beat Celtic 1-0 in Barcelona thanks to an early goal by Xavi for a 4-2 aggregate win.

It was Arsenal, though, who really pulled out all the stops to become the first English side to beat AC Milan at the San Siro.

Late goals by Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor—his first Champions League goal—saw the Gunners into the last eight and understandably left manager Arsene Wenger with a smile like the Cheshire Cat.

“We produced the match we wanted to,” said the Frenchman.

“I am very proud.
It is wonderful for a young team to knock out such a side as AC Milan.

“It is good for the future of the team, but also for the individual players.”

AC Milan handler Carlo Ancelotti may be staring at an empty trophy cabinet, save for the largely ceremonial European Super Cup and World Club Cup, with his side out of contention for Serie A and the Italian Cup.

“I don’t think so,” he replied when asked if he would be under pressure to leave.

“We’ve won so many trophies lately that this defeat is nothing compared to what we won so I will go on.”

He certainly got unequivocal support from the president of the club and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi as to whether Ancelotti would be there next term.

“Definitely!”

Fenerbahce showed that their poor away form in European competition is a thing of the past with a display that warmed the heart of their coach and Brazilian legend Zico.

“We played with great courage and gave a good account of ourselves away from home in a ferocious atmosphere,” said Zico, who moved to Turkey following his stewardship of Japan which ended after the 2006 World Cup.

Barcelona’s expected progress through to the next stage was overshadowed by another injury to Argentinian star Lionel Messi which looks like him missing a month.

All of which left Barca coach Frank Rijkaard looking more like the losing coach.

“Messi’s injury has over-shadowed the night. It has affected everybody,” said Rijkaard.

The last word, though, belongs to Wenger—who knows how injuries to players can affect a club after Eduardo’s awful injury over a week ago—and what lies ahead for future rivals.

“My players are hungry.”

The club next on Arsenal’s menu has been warned. - AFP

Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin is a journalist with Agence France Presse , who has been based in Paris for 16 years having initially arrived for just a six month summer stay. Born in Ireland in 1965 and educated at Eton and Institute for Foreign Students in Tours after missing out on University by a large margin. His first name is a gift from his grandfather inspired by Radio Caroline but not appreciated by a Roman Catholic priest at christening.  Read more from Pirate Irwin

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