Zlatan Ibrahimovic inspired AC Milan to a 4-0 demolition of Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday, although the sorry performance of the visitors had as much to do with the scoreline as the volatile Swede’s brilliance.
Ibrahimovic set up two goals for Robinho, then won and converted a penalty for the fourth to leave Milan almost certain of ending their dismal recent record against English opposition.
Kevin-Prince Boateng had fired Milan ahead with a typically emphatic effort in the 15th minute.
Arsenal, who had not previously lost by more than three goals in the Champions League, never got to grips with the nimble footwork of Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Boateng, who pulled their defense all over the place.
The visitors were also at a loss as to how to penetrate the Milan defense, where Thiago Silva had an outstanding game. Antonio Nocerino and Luca Antonini were also impressive for the Serie A leaders.
“We were never in the game, we were very poor offensively and defensively, and it is shocking to see how we were beaten everywhere,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told reporters. “It was our worst performance in Europe by far, there was not one moment we were really in the game. We had to chase the game, open up our game. It was always the same for us, balls over the top, it’s difficult to analyze. It’s better not to talk too much and to analyze with a cool head.”
AC Milan’s last three participations in the Champions League have ended in the round-of-16 with defeats against English clubs, including Arsenal, but Wenger saw no change of that run continuing.
“We don’t play in a dream world ... realistically we are out of this competition,” he said.
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri praised his team’s defense and criticized the attack for not scoring more goals.
“We played well as a team, we did not give them any scoring chances, we were very good in defense and especially good when Arsenal had possession,” Allegri said. “We could have scored more, which is a pity in the Champions League where you have two legs.”
The match was played on a shocking pitch at San Siro where both flanks resembled a ploughed field. About a dozen officials in green uniforms spent the halftime interval trying to replace divots and flatten the turf with hoes.
The Serie A champions began with a flourish as Boateng back-heeled the ball to Clarence Seedorf and he shot into the side-netting.
Seedorf limped off after 12 minutes and he was replaced by Urby Emanuelson, but it made little difference and three minutes later they were ahead.
Nocerino chipped the ball over the Arsenal defense and into the path of Boateng, who chested the ball down and hammered a dipping shot in off the underside of the crossbar.
Nocerino fired over the bar, before Ibrahimovic broke down the left, reached the byline and dinked the ball back for Robinho to head the second.
Milan could easily have a third goal before halftime as Boateng broke clear, but he shot into the side-netting and Antonini poked the ball wide after Ibrahimovic sent him clear.
However, it only took four minutes of the second half for them to score again as Ibrahimovic passed the ball behind Robinho, but he reacted quickly, got in position and shot into the corner.
Arsenal had to wait until the 66th minute for a real chance when Robin van Persie’s shot on the turn was superbly turned around the post by Christian Abbiati.