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Milan advances despite 3-0 loss to Arsenal

Tue 6th, March 2012

London, England (Sports Network) - Arsenal made the improbable possible, but a miracle was still just out of reach Tuesday.

Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Rosicky and Robin Van Persie scored inside 43 minutes as the Gunners closed a four-goal deficit against AC Milan in the second match of their Champions League series, but settled for a 3-0 win at Emirates.

AC Milan advanced despite the loss, as it won the first game in Italy 4-0. The 4-3 aggregate advantage sent Milan through to the quarterfinals, and left just one English Premier League side alive in the competition.

And that could change next week. Arsenal and Chelsea were the only two English clubs to make the knockout stage and Chelsea lost the first game of its series 3-1 in Italy.

No team had ever overcome a four-goal deficit from the first game in Champions League history, but the Gunners made it a realistic possibility with its great first half.

Arsenal notched the early goal it needed after just 7 minutes, as Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain's corner kick found an unmarked Koscielny in the middle of the box and he turned a header inside the left post.

The Gunners added a second goal inside the half-hour mark as Rosicky picked up a poor clearance from Thiago Silva, then slotted a 17-yard chance off the hand of Milan goalie Christian Abbiati and inside the right post.

With the aggregate deficit at two goals, Arsenal's confidence grew and chances continued until Van Persie added a third from the spot.

Chamberlain raced into the area and attempted to split two AC Milan defenders, but Djarnel Mesbah moved into his path as he broke free and a penalty kick was given just minutes before half.

Van Persie hammered the penalty into the top-right corner with Abbiati diving the opposite way and Arsenal trimmed its four-goal deficit to one in less than half.

Milan nearly ended the series before halftime, but Stephan El Shaarawy wasted an open look from the right side of the area when he fired well wide. With one goal, Milan would have forced Arsenal to score at least six in the match.

Abbiati was the hero for AC Milan early in the second half when he made a pair of saves to deny Arsenal the tying goal. He made a great kick save to keep out a deflected shot from Gervinho, and recovered to make a one-handed save on Van Persie from point-blank range.

Arsenal goalie Wojciech Szczesny nearly gave the series to Milan just ahead of the hour mark, as a poor pass into midfield was controlled by Milan marksman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ibrahimovic unleashed a fast shot with Szczesny scrambling back into the box, but missed the target.

Another easy chance was wasted by Milan in the 77th, this one through Alberto Aquilani. He raced in to meet a cross inside the 6-yard box, but sent the ball right to Szczesny with the entire left side of the goal wide open.

Arsenal struggled to create another good chance in the closing stages as Milan escaped with the aggregate win to advance to the last eight for the first time since 2006-07, when it won the tournament.

Benfica 2, Zenit 0

Lisbon, Portugal - Maxi Pereira and Nelson Oliveira scored as Benfica advanced to the Champions League quarterfinals with a 2-0 win Tuesday over Zenit that sealed a 4-3 aggregate victory.

Zenit won the first leg in Russia, 3-2, but Pereira's goal in the later stages of the first half put Benfica in control. Pereira's goal tied the aggregate at 3-3, and gave Benfica the edge on away goals.

The match remained level until the closing minutes, when Oliveira's deflected shot sailed inside the left post to seal Benfica's progression.

Benfica last advanced to the quarterfinals in 2005-06, but was eliminated from the tournament in that round by eventual champion Barcelona.

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