AC Milan 0, Arsenal 2: We're off the canvas and ready to administer knockout blow, says Arsene Wenger

 
Ross McLean
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AC Milan v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League Round of 16: First Leg
Aaron Ramsey doubled Arsenal's lead first-half stoppage-time (Source: Getty)

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger likened his side to a boxer who has hauled themselves off the canvas after ending a disastrous run of results with victory over AC Milan in Thursday's Europa League last-16 first leg clash.

The Gunners arrived at the San Siro at a despairingly low ebb but breathed new life into their seemingly forlorn season courtesy of first-half strikes from playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan and midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

Eight defeats this calendar year, and four in succession, had left Wenger under intense pressure and Arsenal 13 points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham in the race for Champions League qualification through the Premier League.

Winning the Europa League would appear to be Arsenal’s only chance of reaching the continent’s elite club competition next season, and a victory against Milan, previously unbeaten in 13 matches, was a timely tonic.

“When you are knocked down, a little bit like in a boxing match, you have no time to recover,” said Wenger. “That’s what happened to us. But at some stage you have to respond and have pride and desire to show you have the quality to come again.

“When you play a [Carabao] cup final on a Sunday and lose it, it’s very difficult to digest that psychologically in three or four days and we had games on the bounce straight away.

“It’s an important win after we had a nightmare week. Overall, it’s important to win, but it is not qualification. We have to finish the job at home. I am happy with the response we gave.”

Arsenal had not lost five successive matches since 1977, when they were beaten in eight consecutive fixtures, and set about arresting their wretched run of form by taking a 15th-minute lead.

Mesut Ozil picked out Mkhitaryan on the left side of the penalty area with a first-time pass, and the Armenia skipper cut inside full-back Davide Calabria and fired a deflected effort beyond Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Defender Calum Chambers and former Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck were both denied by Donnarumma before the latter embarked upon a driving run and found Mkhitaryan, who clipped the top of the crossbar.

But the Gunners did not have to wait long to double their advantage. Deep into first-half stoppage-time, Ramsey latched onto Ozil’s through ball, left Donnarumma stranded on the ground and tapped into an empty net.

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