Champions League round-up
Magnificent night in Milan, while United join Gunners in last eight
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Arsenal made history in Milan as late goals from Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor ensured they progressed to the last eight of the Champions League, on a night in which Cristiano Ronaldo’s 30th goal of the season saw off Lyon at Old Trafford.
Prior to the visit of Arsene Wenger’s side to the San Siro, Milan had never lost to an English club on home soil but when Fabregas struck with six minutes remaining there was no way back for the Italians.
And it just kept getting better for Wenger’s charges as in the last minute Adebayor banished the memory of his first leg miss with a second.
There was nothing fortuitous about Arsenal’s victory as they played with archetypal swagger and style in taking the game to the European champions from the off.
While Arsenal were magnificent, Manchester United were more functional as Ronaldo yet again proved to be their match winner on a night when Sir Alex Ferguson will care little for the manner of their victory.
Celtic’s trip to Barcelona was billed as a Mission Impossible Tom Cruise would have baulked at and so it proved at Camp Nou as Xavi’s goal ensured a 1-0 win on the night and a 4-2 aggregate success over the two legs.
For all of the celebrations in Milan, the tie of the round thus far was arguably played out over in Sevilla, as the Spanish club crashed out of the competition to Fenerbahce on penalties.
A tumultuous tie saw Sevilla win 3-2 on the night but endure a spot-kick nightmare as Volkan Demirel in Fener’s goal went from zero to hero in the course of 120 minutes of pulsating action.
Arsenal withstood early pressure in Milan that saw chances carved for Filippo Inzaghi and Alexandre Pato, before finding a rhythm that had a partisan home crowd rightly on edge.
Prolonged periods of crisp possession for Wenger’s side saw Adebayor force Zeljko Kalac to tip over and Fabregas rue the width of the crossbar with a thumping effort from distance.
After the break Arsenal continued to press strongly as Philippe Senderos from close range and then Emmanuel Eboue in acres of space in Milan’s box both missed glorious opportunities to notch an away goal.
Theo Walcott went close to winning it with a bright cameo from the bench but it was Fabregas that broke Milan’s resolve with a daisy cutter that beat Kalac from 30-yards.
Gloss was put on the most polished of displays when in the final minute Adebayor tapped in from close range after Walcott had scampered down the right.
Ferguson’s starting line-up at Old Trafford caused more than the odd arched eyebrow as Carlos Tevez, likened to Eric Cantona by the Scot this week, was named on the bench alongside Paul Scholes.
United bossed the majority of the first half as Lyon only hinted at the attacking talent they undoubtedly possess.
It was no surprise then that the game’s opening goal owed more than a little to fortuitous circumstances. Wes Brown made a lung-busting raid down the right but from his cross Anderson failed to find a true connection. However, after the ball broke to Ronaldo, the Portuguese international showed trademark poise in slotting beyond Gregory Coupet from eight yards.
United were far from at their fluid best and with 15 minutes remaining Kader Keita evoked a sharp intake of breath from the majority of those present when his snapshot hit the foot of Edwin van der Sar’s near post.
Bridge too far
Celtic boss Gordon Strachan sent his side out to be compact and difficult to break down; with barely more than three minutes on the clock Barcelona were ahead.
Ronaldinho was the architect as he gave Celtic’s back four the eyes, before playing in an advanced Silvinho on the overlap.
The Brazilian’s cross found Xavi and with an outstretched boot the diminutive schemer beat Artur Boruc from close range.
Any fears of a capitulation proved ill-founded though as Celtic rallied and while Boruc was the busier of the two goalkeepers, it was not all one-way traffic in the Catalan capital.
Fenerbahce goalkeeper Demirel experienced the proverbial mixed night against Sevilla as he single handedly gifted the Spaniards a route back into the tie, before redeeming himself by saving three penalties in the ensuing shoot-out.
A mere five minutes had elapsed when Brazilian star Daniel Alves chanced his arm from range with a free-kick that Demirel got horribly wrong in electing to punch rather than parry; an aberration that concluded with the ball nestling in his bottom corner.
And it got no better for the beleaguered goalkeeper, for while Seydou Keita’s strike from 25-yards had venom it was arched directly above his head and anything other than a lethargic wave of the glove would surely have repelled it.
Fener coach Zico looked deflated on the touch-line but an entertaining encounter was given added spice in the 21st minute when after Sevilla failed to fully clear a corner, Deivid’s crisp drive from just inside the box evaded a heap of bodies in the area to level the tie at 4-4.
Deivid’s intervention looked to be a false dawn for Fenerbahce though as Sevilla edged ahead 3-1 on the night before half-time, as Freddie Kanoute took Alves’ clipped pass on his chest before volleying past Demirel with the aid of a generous deflection off Gokhan Gonul.
The home side appeared to be cruising into the last eight when with ten minutes remaining Deivid was left criminally free from a free-kick to stab home at the second attempt, after hitting the post from close range with his initial effort.
In the shoot-out Demirel cast himself as the most unlikely of heroes as he excelled in saving three of Sevilla’s efforts from 12 yards.