Fabregas ends Milan title defenceTuesday 4 March 2008
Late goals from Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor sent Arsenal FC through to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League at the expense of holders AC Milan.
With extra time looming, an enthralling game was effectively decided with six minutes to go when Fabregas, who had earlier hit the bar, received the ball on the halfway line, ran 15 metres and unleashed a low shot into the bottom corner of Zeljko Kalac's goal. Adebayor completed a memorable victory as substitute Theo Walcott raced down the right to square for the Togo international to score his first goal of this continental campaign.
Arsenal knew an away goal would leave the European champions with a mountain to climb and set about trying to break the deadlock early on. Aleksandr Hleb fired over from distance but his effort served only to spark a flurry of activity at the other end, where Pato danced his way past four defenders and unleashed a venomous shot of his own. The fans in the Curva Sud were in full cry now and Milan almost fashioned the opening goal from a corner. Yet, as in the first leg, Paolo Maldini's header was cleared off the line, in what was to prove the veteran's final appearance in the competition.
Milan's offensive approach left spaces at the back, however, and the Rossoneri rearguard opened up when Adebayor hared forward inside the first quarter-hour, turning past Kakha Kaladze before teeing up Abou Diaby who curled a strike just wide from the edge of the area. Back came the hosts, Maldini crossing for Filippo Inzaghi whose shot disappointed, while an unmarked Pato freed himself at the far post only to side-foot straight at Manuel Almunia.
Off the woodwork
Carlo Ancelotti's men were in charge for most of the first half, with Kaká a livewire presence the visiting defence simply could not contain. The Brazilian playmaker twice raced through before flashing an effort wide of goal. But as the rain which had started just before kick-off abated, so the north Londoners appeared to have weathered the storm. Suddenly their trademark first-time passing was back and Kaladze was struggling to cope with the powerful runs of Adebayor, who supplied Fabregas to rattle the crossbar with a 34th-minute strike.
Two more golden opportunities fell Arsenal's way shortly after the break. Philippe Senderos met Fabregas's corner only to direct his first-time shot into Kalac's body; then, on 53 minutes, Andrea Pirlo sent a clearance straight at Adebayor who fed Emmanuel Eboué, though the Ivorian thrashed wide from 12 metres. Arsène Wenger's team were seeing more possession yet lacked a cutting edge. Walcott could have provided it when Hleb picked him out at the far post, but he opted to seek out Adebayor and his pass was cut out by Kalac.
With ten minutes to go Pato sparked into life again, cutting in from the right before swerving a low attempt centimetres wide. However, just as the match appeared to be heading for the extra half-hour, Fabregas stepped up to silence the home fans and dethrone their heroes.
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