Welbeck double sends Arsenal into Europa League quarter-finals
Striker celebrates England call-up as Gunners come from behind to complete impressive win over Italian giants after last week's victory in the San Siro
15 March, 2018 — By Paul Cowling
Europa League, Round of 16, Second Leg
ARSENAL 3 (Welbeck 39 pen, 86) 71
AC MILAN 1 (Calhanoglu 35)
Arsenal win 5-1 on aggregate
DANNY Welbeck was the toast of the Emirates tonight as he celebrated his England call-up with two goals that helped to send Arsenal through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
Welbeck’s first-half penalty, followed by a late header, set the seal on an impressive Arsenal performance in an exciting game against AC Milan after the Gunners won the first leg 2-0 in Italy last week.
The scoreline and European progress was music to the ears of a beleaguered Arsene Wenger, who thought his team “responded well” to going a goal down.
“It was better from us. We had a difficult game, but in the end we won it,” said the Arsenal coach.
Wenger made two changes from the side that masterminded the impressive win in the San Siro, with Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin coming in for Saed Kolasinac and Calum Chambers, who were on the bench.
Chambers, however, came on after just 10 minutes, replacing Laurent Koscielny who had taken a knock to his back.
Fears that a significant number of Gunners fans might stay away were dispelled, as a near-packed Emirates pulsated with a crackling atmosphere.
The shrill of the Milan fans was near constant as Arsenal enjoyed up to 65 per cent first-half possession.
Then, out of nowhere, Milan were back in the tie on 35 minutes, when Hakan Calhanoglu’s speculative 30-yard shot beat a scrambling David Ospina to make it 2-1 on aggregate.
But in the 39th minute, Arsenal were awarded a dubious-looking penalty when Welbeck went down under a challenge from Ricardo Rodriguez. Swedish referee Jonas Ericsson took a moment to make his mind up before pointing to the spot, and, despite frantic protestations from the Milan players, Welbeck fired home a crucial equaliser.
“Do you want me to accuse British players of diving?” said Wenger, when asked about Welbeck.
“Was it a penalty? I don’t know. The Italian players weren’t happy.”
Suddenly the end to the first half became breathless. Both sides were throwing themselves into attack.
Milan screamed for a penalty of their own when they claimed a handball off Chambers, while a Jack Wilshere piledriver cannoned off the body of Milan keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, and away from a pouncing Welbeck.
Wounded by their apparent injustice but buoyed by their away goal, Milan looked a definite threat at the start of the second half. Suso fired just wide on 55 minutes.
But, just as it looked as if Milan might inflict major anxiety on Gunners fans, Granit Xhaka’s long-range shot was palmed into his own net by Donnarumma in the 71st minute.
Arsenal were 2-1 ahead on the night and heading into the quarter-finals.
Their place in the draw was confirmed when Welbeck headed in from close range in the 86th minute. The impressive Wilshere crossed for Ramsey, whose goalbound header was cleared, but only as far as the England striker.
Asked whether he thought the fans were back onside, Wenger said the club “were loved by many”.
He added: “The crowd has been an asset many times. The other side is to show their disappointment.”
Arsenal: Ospina; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny (C) (Chambers, 10), Monreal; Ozil (Kolasinac, 78), Ramsey, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan (Elneny 69); Wilshere; Welbeck.
Subs not used: Cech, Iwobi, Maitland-Niles, Nketiah.
AC Milan: Donnarumma; Borini, Bonucci (C), Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Kessie (Locatelli 78 ), Hakan-Calhanoglu (Bonaventura 69); Montolivo; Suso, Andre-Silva, Cutrone (Kalinac 67).
Subs not used: Storari,Zapata, Biglia, Musacchio.