Breaking a four-game losing streak in style, Arsenal relieved some of the pressure of beleaguered manager Arsene Wenger with an incredible 2-0 win over a shellshocked AC Milan side at the San Siro in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round-of-16 tie.
Coming into Thursday’s match, the Rossoneri were clear favourites as they had been revitalised under fiery manager Gennaro Gattuso and Arsene Wenger’s team selection had fans fearing the worsts for injury-prone striker Danny Welbeck was starting.
It was an open game from the off, with both side’s defences struggling to cope as Patrick Cutrone and Henrikh Mkhitaryan coming close to scoring inside the first 10 minutes.
The Armenian, at the second time of asking, would open the scoring with a deft turn and finish, albeit a deflected one, after collecting Mesut Ozil’s delightful dink with ease to register his first goal in an Arsenal jersey.
Milan never truly recovered from going down in the 15th minute and had it not been for the heroics of Gianluigi Donnaruma in their goal, they could have been down by several goals well before half-time.
Arsenal, however, weren’t to be denied and once again Ozil was the architect just moments after Mkhitaryan had hit the post. The German slipped in Aaron Ramsey for a one-on-one and the Welshman cooly rounded the onrushing Donnarumma to stroke the ball into an empty net deep in first-half injury-time.
A visibly-incensed Gattuso would have demanded an improvement from his team in the second-half and while the Italian giants did up the tempo, the Gunners kept them at bay fairly comfortably as they reduced the hosts to potshots from distance.
With the return leg at the Emirates Stadium in a week’s time, the Gunners effectively have one foot in the door and with their backs to the wall, have successfully fired a riposte to silence their many critics but the job isn’t done just yet.
Milan will have to dig deep to recover from their first loss of the year, which threatens to derail their season.