By Israel Igiri
Arsenal claimed a valuable 2-0 first-leg victory over AC Milan to move towards a place in the quarterfinals of the Europa League and end a run of four straight defeats in the process.
First-half goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey ensured the Gunners who have had a poor run in recent weeks eased the pressure on their manager Arsene Wenger with a comfortable victory at the Guiseppe Meazza stadium, San Siro, Italy on Thursday night, and put them in control of the tie.
Milan started off brightly, and had a chance to take the lead in the second minute as Giacomo Bonaventura slid in at the back post but failed to make contact with a deflected cross.
Moments later, Arsenal recovered well and they took the lead in the 15th minute when Mkhitaryan cut inside from Mesut Ozil’s pass before beating Gianluigi Donnarumma with a strike which deflected in off Milan skipper Leonardo Bonucci.
As the game approached the half-hour mark, the home side struggled to impose themselves on the contest, and had their goalie to thank following saves from Calum Chambers and Danny Welbeck.
Wenger’s men continued to press, and after Mkhitaryan skimmed the bar, Ramsey latched onto a delightful through ball from Ozil before rounding off Donnarumma to hand the visitors a 2-0 half-time lead.
Any hope of the Rossoneri coming back into the game in the second-half was a tall dream as they never looked good enough to threaten David Ospina’s clean sheet on the night.
With Europa League glory Arsenal’s most likely route to the Champions League football next season, the players will look to defend their two-goal lead and seal a quarter-final berth when both teams meet at the Emirates for the second leg next Thursday.
In the other matches played in the first leg of the Europa League last 16, Atletico Madrid comfortably saw off Lokomotiv Moscow 3-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, Borrusia
Dortmund 2-1 loss at home leaves them with a tall mountain to climb when they visit Salzburg, Olympique Lyonnais grabbed a 1-0 victory at CSKA Moscow, Lazio were held to a 2-2 home draw in their tie with Dynamo Kyiv, Sporting Lisbon put one foot into the quarter-finals with a 2-0 home victory against Viktoria Plzen, RB Leipzig will take a slender lead to Russia after they fought hard to a 2-1 win, and Marseille were 3-1 winners over Athletic Bilbao at the Stade Velodrome.