MONACO (AP) - Monaco withstood Arsenal’s onslaught to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League despite a 2-0 home defeat on Tuesday, advancing on the away goals rule after drawing 3-3 on aggregate.
Following a 3-1 humiliating defeat at the Emirates three weeks ago in the first leg of the last 16, Arsenal needed to score at least three times to become the first team in the history of the Champions League to progress after losing at home by a two-goal margin.
Olivier Giroud gave Arsenal some hope when he broke the deadlock in the 36th minute. Substitute Aaron Ramsey then ensured a nervy finish with a clinical finish into the bottom corner from Layvin Kurzawa’s poor clearance in the 79th.
Despite those efforts, Arsenal still bowed out of the round of 16 for the fifth season in a row.
“We’ve always gone out to Bayern Munich and Barcelona at this stage but, no disrespect to Monaco, we thought we’d have a good opportunity to qualify. But we gave ourselves a tough test from the first leg,” Ramsey said. “It’s nearly again, but it’s not enough.”
Arsenal dominated all aspects of the game at the Stade Louis II to overrun the best defensive team in Europe with a dazzling attacking display. It was a complete contrast to the Londoners’ lackluster performance in the first leg that sealed their fate.
Although Monaco managed only one shot during the first half, the 2004 runners-up made it to the quarterfinals for the third time. There will be two French clubs in the last eight for the first time in five years after Paris Saint-Germain ousted Chelsea from the competition last week.
“It’s always difficult to turn a three-goal deficit around,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who coached Monaco for seven years. “Tonight we did not seize all our chances, and we were made to pay for our first-leg inadequacies.”
In the night’s other match, Atletico Madrid beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 on penalties after the teams drew 1-1 on aggregate. Atletico won 1-0 on the night.
Despite their need for goals, the Gunners made a cautious start and let the hosts take control.
Monaco created the first chance after Anthony Martial got past a defender on the left side of the box to serve up a fine cross to Dimitar Berbatov, with the Bulgarian forward glancing the ball on for Joao Moutinho, who curled his shot wide.
Monaco’s bright opening spell did not last long, though, and Leonardo Jardim’s players struggled until the final whistle.
“At 2-0 down, it was really hot. I was constantly looking at the clock on the giant screen but the minutes passed very slowly,” Monaco midfielder Nabil Dirar said. “We tried in vain to catch them on the break. Our football might not be enjoyable to watch, but we are a real team, we are united.”
Arsenal’s first chance came in the 15th minute with a dangerous move that ended with a header from Giroud that brushed past the post.
A good block from Kurzawa then denied Santi Cazorla’s acrobatic volley after Giroud turned in a cross from the left, and Laurent Koscielny struck the bar from a free kick flicked into his path, although the referee had flagged him offside.
Arsenal’s efforts were finally rewarded when Danny Welbeck played a ball for Giroud behind the Monaco defense. The France striker was initally denied by ‘keeper Danijel Subasic but was lucky to see the rebound fall for his right foot, and he made no mistake with a rising shot into the roof of the net.
Monaco’s defense began to cave in, letting an unmarked Welbeck fire from the edge of the box two minutes later - only for the former Manchester United player’s attempt to be blocked by Aymen Abdennour as he lay on the pitch.
The second half started at the same high tempo, with Monaco players struggling to cope with the pace and movement of Arsenal. Jardim added some fresh blood by bringing on Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, who had scored Monaco’s decisive third goal in the first leg.
The decision paid off as the Belgian winger burst across the pitch in search of an opening and dribbled past two Arsenal players, only to fluff his shot from the edge of the box.
Ramsey made it 2-0 with 11 minutes left after substitute Theo Walcott’s side-footed his shot against the post and Kurzawa sent the ball back to the Welshman, who arrowed his shot into the corner.
Subasic made another decisive save when he denied Alexis Sanchez’s header and Monaco players parked the bus during the five minutes of stoppage time to end manager Arsene Wenger’s perfect record against French clubs in two-legged ties.
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