Arsenal finally came to life in 2018 with a victory that eases the pressure of Arsene Wenger as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey scored first-half goals in a thoroughly impressive 2-0 victory at AC Milan.
While the attack fired, the defence held up for once as Laurent Koscielny and company shook off their recent disastrous form and put on a masterclass at the San Siro.
The display brought an end to Milan’s 13-match unbeaten run. Below, we dish out the ratings to a fine Gunners performance.
David Ospina – Crucial intervention to whip the ball of Nikola Kalinic’s feet late on – a superb sweeper keeper for Arsenal, even though he barely had a shot to save. 7
Calum Chambers – Showed tons of heart but was sloppy in possession, with on error nearly allowing Hakan Calhanoglu to slip past Ospina. Went close down the other end. 6
Laurent Koscielny – Where had this type of performance been all season? A warrior at the back and nearly faultless as he cut off the supply to a bullied Patrick Cutrone and Co up front. 9
Shkodran Mustafi – Gave ball away in horror position and he was lucky that Cutrone could only find the side netting. Mistake cannot be forgotten entirely, but followed Koscielny’s brave lead for much of the game. 7
Sead Kolasinac – Was once too easily beaten by Suso and did not exploit overlap against an underwhelmed Davide Calabria to its full extent. Satisfactory if not spectacular. 6
Granit Xhaka – Another derided member of the Arsenal squad put in a mighty performance worthy of display at the San Siro. Wonderfully controlled with ball at base of midfield and – just about – did not lose his temper in defence. More of the same needed. 8
Aaron Ramsey – Back to best after injury and cracked Milan open like an egg before deftly rounding Gianluigi Donnarumma and scoring the Gunners’ second. Stuck his foot a little too eagerly in midfield, but a hugely successful return. 7
Jack Wilshere – Not as protective of the ball as some of his other team-mates but was a crucial component of Arsenal’s effervescence in the first half. 7
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – After a woeful opening 10 minutes you feared for him – few would have thought this kind of response was in him. Could have bit a second but for the crossbar. Showed off his majestic dribbling ability for once. 8
Mesut Ozil – Arsenal fans wouldn’t mind his frequent disappearing acts if he inserted moments of brilliance like he did in this match. Breathtaking ball to Mkhitaryan set up the opener, and took the defence out of the game for Ramsey’s run. 8
Danny Welbeck – Wonderful pass to Mkhitaryan nearly resulted in a second for the Armenian. That aside, his touch is always a fraction too rough or his balance a shade too off to look comfortable around Arsenal’s more graceful footballers. 6
Ainsley Maitland-Niles – Came on for a yellow-carded Kolasinac but was rather shaky and many of Milan’s late forays came down the left side. 6
Rob Holding – Came on for the last 10 as the onslaught continued and held up well. 7
Mohamed Elneny – No disaster in the dying moments of game, couldn’t get a hold of the ball though. N/A
The 20-year-old, who had appeared as a substitute in the three previous games, also got back on the scoresheet for the first time since November by netting after just eight minutes.
It did not prove enough to prevent City’s first loss at the Etihad Stadium for 15 months, with the Swiss side coming back to win 2-1, but progress to the quarter-finals was still comfortably secured 5-2 on aggregate.
Jesus said: “When you are in the game, without wanting it, you end up thinking about the previous game where you got injured, you have a bit of fear.
“But, as you are playing more and more, you are going to get that fear away and play your football.
“I think I still played with some fear, there’s some movements when I still have some worries about getting injured again.
“I know anything can happen but I’m sure that the more you play, the quicker that fear is going to go away.”
Despite his concerns, Jesus did not feel any ill effects as he completed 90 minutes.
“Physically, I’m feeling very well,” he said. “Tactically too. I’m a bit sad for the result, that’s not what we wanted, but I’m happy we have got through to the next round.”
City looked to have picked up where they left off after last month’s 4-0 first-leg win over Basel as Jesus turned home Bernardo Silva’s low cross.
But after making six changes for an ultimately inconsequential game, City lacked intensity and Basel hit back to restore some pride with goals from Mohamed Elyounoussi and Michael Lang.
Jesus now hopes to play a part as City look to wrap up the Premier League title and continue in Europe, but he has issues about having to bide his time behind Sergio Aguero, who has hit form in his absence.
“Aguero is my team-mate and I’ll always cheer for him to score and help the club,” said Jesus. “When the opportunity comes for me, I’ll do my best and I’m sure that they’ll support me.”
Jesus is of a similar opinion of Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino when it comes to international duty.
He said: “We compete for the position but we’re friends as well. If Firmino is doing well, I’m happy for him.”
Another Brazilian with injury problems is the world’s most expensive player, Neymar. The Paris Saint-Germain star has undergone surgery to repair a broken foot, casting doubt over his World Cup participation.
Jesus, who had a similar problem last season, said: “Neymar sent me a message right after his injury. I told him how I felt and how my recovery was. He is a fighter and everything is going to be fine.”
Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and his Juventus team-mate Giorgio Chiellini were among those who paid their respects in Florence to the defender who captained his club and played 14 times for his country.
One banner in the crowd read “Ciao captain”, another “Our captain forever” and purple smoke from flares to match the colour of Fiorentina’s shirts filled the sky.
Applause rang out as Astori’s coffin was carried into the Santa Croce basilica as children wearing Fiorentina tracksuits formed a guard of honour.
Milan Badelj, Astori’s deputy captain at the club, paid tribute to the player in a homily.
“You were the son and the brother that everyone would like to have,” the Croatian said. “Your parents didn’t put a foot wrong with you, Davide.”
He said everyone who remembered Astori would tell his two-year daughter Vittoria that he had been a man with a capital ‘M’.
Buffon and Chiellini dashed back from London where the Turin team dedicated their Champions League victory over Tottenham on Wednesday to Astori.
Chiellini said after the match: “He is on our minds on this day. I cried many times. He was a fantastic player.”
Daniele De Rossi, Mario Balotelli and Francesco Totti were among Italy players past and present who came to pay their respects and the entire Fiorentina team, dressed in sober dark suits and ties, attended.
Astori was found dead in a hotel room in Udine on Sunday ahead of Fiorentina’s Serie A match against Udinese. All matches were postponed in the wake of the discovery.
A post-mortem examination has found Astori most likely died from a cardiac arrest linked to the slowing of his heart rate.
He will be buried near his home city of Bergamo in northern Italy.
Fiorentina and Astori’s former club Cagliari have said they will retire his number 13 shirt in his honour.
There are likely to be more emotional scenes when Fiorentina play their first game since the tragedy when they face Benevento at home on Sunday.
Provided by AFP Sport