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Arsenal eased to victory over AC Milan to move towards a place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League and end a run of four consecutive defeats in the process.
The Gunners were at a low ebb heading to Italy after poor performances and damaging losses had seen the pressure cranked up on manager Arsene Wenger.
This was supposed to be another tough challenge for a beleaguered Arsenal at San Siro but instead they outclassed an admittedly poor Milan side as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey struck in the first half to seal a comfortable 2-0 win in the first leg of this last-16 tie.
Mkhitaryan shone in the Europa League for Manchester United last season and topped that off by scoring in the final as the Red Devils saw off Ajax.
Wenger would love a similar run in this competition as all hopes of returning to the Champions League through the Premier League have all-but ended as Arsenal sit 13 points off the top four.
This was a massive night for both Wenger and his side and, for the first time in a considerable while, they answered some of the recent questions asked of their quality, commitment and togetherness.
It was not perfect and Milan had chances but the Rossoneri had not conceded in their last six games and had lost just one of their previous 20 European matches at the Giuseppe Meazza.
Gennaro Gattuso's side were inches away from taking the lead in just the second minute as Giacomo Bonaventura slid in at the back post but could not make contact with a deflected cross as the hosts forced the issue in the opening exchanges.
Arsenal also looked to make early in-roads and, although some of their pass selections - short and easy - showed that confidence is lacking, one smart move ended with Mkhitaryan firing into the side-netting.
But it would be the visitors who took the lead when the impressive Mkhitaryan cut inside from Mesut Ozil's pass before beating Gianluigi Donnarumma with a strike which deflected in off Milan skipper Leonardo Bonucci.
The home fans started to show their restlessness as Milan's players struggled to impose themselves on the contest, Calum Chambers forcing a decent save out of Donnarumma with a well-struck effort before Danny Welbeck passed up a glorious chance to add a second.
Welbeck did better moments later as Arsenal broke forward following a wasted Milan free-kick, switching play to Mkhitaryan who this time could only clip the top of the crossbar with his shot.
Arsenal would eventually, and deservedly, add to their lead before half-time to make their dominance pay, Ramsey showing superb composure to control Ozil's slide-rule pass and round Donnarumma to tuck home.
Welbeck again failed to convert when in behind before Bonaventura blazed over from inside the box as Milan went in search of a response.
Some mistakes crept into Arsenal's game, not helped when Sead Kolasinac limped off to be replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
But Milan never really looked good enough to threaten David Ospina's clean sheet, Suso firing well wide before Franck Kessie was challenged well by Laurent Koscielny as he looked to get a shot away.
There were no late moments of drama for Arsenal who saw the game out in a professional manner, something Wenger will be calling for in the return leg at the Emirates Stadium next Thursday.
Ramsey goal in pics19:08
Mkhitaryan goal in pics18:27
- This was Arsenal’s first win in the opening leg of a last 16 European tie since February 2011 (2-1 v Barcelona in the Champions League).
- The Gunners are the first side to beat AC Milan at the San Siro in the Europa League/UEFA Cup since February 2002 (0-1 v Roda JC) – the Italians had gone 10 games without losing between these defeats.
- Arsenal’s victory ended a run of 13 games without defeat for AC Milan in all competitions, with their previous loss before this coming back in December 2017 (v Atalanta in Serie A).
- Mesut Özil has been directly involved in 100 goals in 189 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal (37 goals and 63 assists).
- With five goals and nine assists in all competitions this season, Özil (14) has had a hand in more goals than any other Arsenal player.
- Since the start of the 2015/16 campaign, Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been directly involved in more goals than any other midfielder in the Europa League (15 - nine goals and six assists).
- Seven of the Armenian’s last nine goals in all competitions have been scored in European fixtures (six in the Europa League and one in the Champions League).
- Arsenal’s opener ended a run of 599 minutes without conceding a goal in all competitions for AC Milan.
It's advantage Arsenal at the end of the first leg, and it's definitely a well-deserved lead for the Gunners. The north London side were certainly the better of the two teams throughout the course of the evening, resulting in an unusually poor Milan looking toothless in front of goal and uncharacteristically weak at the back. After a torrid run of form, that's exactly the sort of performance Wenger's men desperately needed.
FULL-TIME: MILAN 0-2 ARSENAL
19:5990+5 minsminute by minute
Milan push forward on one final attacking move as they try to grab themselves a late goal, but Borini's cross into the penalty area is slightly too heavy and Silva can't quite control it in front of goal.
19:5890+4 minsminute by minute
Silva and Kalinic link up quickly on the edge of the penalty area, setting up the Portuguese striker to break into the box. He can't find a way past Elneny, though, as the Egyptian easily comes away with the ball.
19:5590+2 minsminute by minute
Bonaventura is caught by a flailing arm from Elneny, and Milan are awarded a free-kick in a promising position out wide. It's curled over to the far post and towards Kessie, who rises high but can't reach the ball under pressure from Maitland-Niles.
19:5490 minsminute by minute
The fourth official has indicated that there will be five minutes of added time.
19:5489 minsminute by minute
Some Milan fans are starting to make their way out of the stadium, and it's no wonder why. Their side look lacklustre in midfield and bereft of ideas up front, where they're struggling to cause any problems for the Arsenal defence.
Overall Possession Ratio
19:5187 minsminute by minute
Arsenal are seeing plenty of possession at the moment, and they're doing well to keep hold of it inside the Milan half of the pitch. The home side are struggling to get on the ball, leaving their fans incredibly frustrated at what they're currently witnessing.
19:4885 minsminute by minute
The visitors have made their final alteration of the evening, with Chambers making way for Elneny.
19:4783 minsminute by minute
Great goalkeeping by Ospina! Silva sends a wonderful pass through the Arsenal defence and towards Kalinic, who rushes into the penalty area and tries to latch onto the ball but is beaten to it by Ospina.
19:4481 minsminute by minute
The first of Milan's corners finds Bonaventura at the far post, where he blasts a deflected shot over the crossbar and behind for another corner. That one is then half dealt with by Arsenal before a curling cross picks out Romagnoli, but the defender can only send a glancing header well wide of the goal.
AC Milan are on the front foot and threatening.
The Gunners have already needed brave blocks to deny them
Can they hold on?
19:4379 minsminute by minute
Kessie sprints into the right-hand side of the Arsenal box and into a pocket of space, where he tries to get a shot away. He can't get the better of Koscielny, though, as the defender is there to deflect the ball behind for a corner.
19:4380 minsminute by minute
Arsenal have made a defensive switch, with Holding coming on to take the place of Ozil.
19:4278 minsminute by minute
Rodriguez whips another cross into the middle of the box, and this time it ends up narrowly missing Kalinic in front of goal. The ball then bounces over to Suso, who smashes a thumping strike out for a throw-in on the opposite flank. That rather sums up Milan's performance tonight.
19:4279 minsminute by minute
Milan have made their third and final alteration, with Calabria making way for Borini.
19:3976 minsminute by minute
Milan are bossing possession at the moment as they desperately try to find a way back into the game, but they're continuing to struggle in front of goal. Rodriguez is the latest player to swing a cross into the box, but it's sent too near to Ospina and is easily collected by the goalkeeper.
Overall Possession Ratio
19:3874 minsminute by minute
A poor pass from Koscielny rolls harmlessly out of play and results in a throw-in for Milan. A lofted pass is fired into the visitors' penalty area and towards Kalinic, who rushes towards the ball but can't reach it ahead of Mustafi.
19:3572 minsminute by minute
No, they can't. Bonaventura slips slightly as he steps up to take the set-piece, and his shot ends up tamely hitting the wall of blue shirts camped in front of him.
19:3571 minsminute by minute
Ramsey tries to dispossess Biglia just outside of the Arsenal box but ends up catching the midfielder, resulting in a yellow card for the Welshman and a free-kick for Milan in a very dangerous position. Can they make it count?
19:3168 minsminute by minute
Suso skips into the right-hand side of the Arsenal box and takes on Maitland-Niles, who deflects the ball behind for a corner. The set-piece is only half dealt with by the visitors, setting up Rodriguez to blast a half-volley wide of the far post.
19:3269 minsminute by minute
Milan have made another attacking change, with Cutrone making way for the out of favour Silva.
19:3066 minsminute by minute
A poor pass from Kessie can only find a blue shirt, allowing Arsenal to break out of their own half of the pitch. Ozil quickly launches a lofted pass up towards Welbeck, but the striker's run through the Milan back line is slightly mistimed and the linesman's flag is raised.
Davide Astori tribute
19:2864 minsminute by minute
Kalinic quickly gets involved in the thick of the action as he tries to latch onto a bouncing ball inside the box, but Mustafi is there to out-muscle the striker before being fouled from behind.
19:2662 minsminute by minute
Kolasinac goes down off the ball and immediately signals to the Arsenal bench that he needs to make way. It's Maitland-Niles who comes on to replace the defender.
19:2662 minsminute by minute
Meanwhile, Milan have brought on Kalinic to take the place of Calhanoglu. It looks as if they're going to switch to a 4-4-2 formation.