Arsenal’s Champions League dreams were shattered by a humiliating defeat to AC Milan in the first leg of their last 16 clash at the San Siro last night.
Kevin-Prince Boateng fired the Italians ahead on 15 minutes with a sublime strike, before two goals by former Manchester City frontman Robinho and a penalty from the impressive Zlatan Ibrahimovic put the tie seemimgly beyond the Gunners.
Arsenal never really settled and were punished for some careless possession. Not even the introduction of former captain Thierry Henry in the final game of his loan spell from New York Red Bulls could spark a fairytale comeback.
The heaviest European away defeat for Arsenal will be a bitter pill to swallow, but Arsene Wenger must lift his squad again for what is now a crucial FA Cup fifth-round tie at Sunderland on Saturday ahead of the Premier League derby with Tottenham - when the Gunners will look to keep alive hopes of qualifying again for the Champions League with a top-four finish.
Milan had not won any of their previous seven matches against English clubs, knocked out of the Champions League at this stage by Tottenham last season.
However, the Serie A leaders never looked in danger of a repeat last night, well organised from kick-off as Arsenal struggled to get any sort of foothold, regardless of a poor San Siro pitch which had recently seen the turf relaid down the flanks.
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny admitted that the visitors were outclassed by an impressive Milan side.
“We didn’t have the best of games, but you have to give credit to Milan,” said Szczesny.
“They punished us on every occasion and scored some quality goals.
“They deserved to win. It’s very disappointing day for us and hopefully we can pick ourselves up and challenge them in the second leg.”
With Henry making his final appearance for the club, most likely ever, before heading back to New York, the stage should have been set for Arsenal to put on a strong showing in this first leg, and Szczesny insisted the players had gone out with the right attitude.
“I think everyone was up for it,” he added. “Aand they knew how to play the game, but they were the better team on the night and that’s the story of the day,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise. They have some of the best attacking players currently around in the world. When you’re playing against Ibra, he’s up there as the best striker we’ve playing against.
“They had quality up front and used it very well.
“We have to keep fighting, pick ourselves up, get the confidence back and challenge in the other competitions and in the second leg of this tie too.”