It was just one step too far for Arsenal who put in a valiant display to defeat AC Milan 3-0 at Emirates Stadium in the Champions League.
Robin van Persie scored from the spot just before half time after goals from Laurent Koscielny and Tomas Rosicky gave the Gunners the lead.
Arsene Wenger’s side could just not push themselves to get the goal that would tie the match, but their Dutch captain missed a glorious chance to do so.
Milan will count themselves lucky after putting in a lacklustre display that could quite easily have seen them dumped out of the competition, but the four goal lead they notched up magnificently in the first leg turned out to be enough.
The home side couldn’t have got off to a better start when in the seventh minute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain whipped in a corner from the left and Koscielny slipped some slack marking to head in to the near corner.
Wenger will be happy with his side’s first half display and a fierce shot from Van Persie on the edge of the box brought an impressive save out of Christian Abbiati.
The Italian goalkeeper could not do much about the defenders in front of him and in the 23th minute Theo Walcott’s low cross was poorly cleared to the feet of Rosicky, who slipped a nice finish inside the near post.
It was an electrifying start by the north Londoners and Milan almost put the tie to bed out of nowhere when Robinho found Stephan El Shaawary free in the right of the box, but his shot was poor and wide.
A fantastic first period was capped off when the hugely impressive Oxlade-Chamberlain burst into the Milan boss and was bundled over by Djamel Mesbah – the defender having a torrid evening.
The referee, who made some bizarre decisions at times, took an age to point to the spot, but after he had, and some delaying gamesmanship from compatriot Mark van Bommel, Robin van Persie converted confidently.
Arsenal went in at the half with the crowd roaring behind them, but it would prove to be fruitless in the end, the home side visibly tired in the second half.
Young Oxlade-Chamberlain seemed to overstretch early after the restart and would later be removed.
There was one golden opportunity for Arsenal but their top scorer could not capitalise.
Rosicky robbed Van Bommel in midfield before playing in Gervinho on the left, the Ivory Coast international’s shot was deflected onto the legs of Abbiati and Van Persie was there at the rebound, but his attempted chip was smothered by a purely reaction save from the prone ‘keeper.
It would prove to be the last hurrah for the Gunners and Milan came into the game more after that, especially with the removal of Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was tiring and it was revealed he had been ill before the game.
Ibrahimovic was out of sorts for the most of the game but he was almost gifted a route into the game when Wojciech Szczesny threw poorly to the feet of Alex Song and the big Swedish attacker pounced to hit first time from 25 yards but dragged just wide.
It was a good chance for Ibrahimovic but Antonio Nocerino had a better one with 75 minutes to go after Alberto Aquilani squared across goal, but Nocerino’s finish was abysmal and fell straight to Szczesny.
Wenger watched on as his side could not muster the energy for one last push and their Serie A opponents scraped into the quarter-finals.
It was an incredible display by Arsenal and they can take much heart from the fact they took an almost impossible task to the limit and will hope they can take the momentum into sealing another bout of Champions League football next year.
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