Arsenal knocked out of Champions League despite heroic win in Monaco
21:46 17 March 2015
Champions League last 16 second leg: Monaco 0 Arsenal 2 (agg 3-3, Monaco win on away goals)
Arsenal crashed out of the Champions League at the last 16 stage for the fifth year running – despite yet another brave second-leg comeback.
Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, the Gunners dominated their hosts at the Stade Louis II and levelled the tie through goals from Olivier Giroud and substitute Aaron Ramsey.
But, despite piling on the pressure, Arsene Wenger’s side could not make Champions League history by finding the net again and it was Monaco who squeezed into the quarter-finals on away goals.
Wenger deployed an attacking line-up, with Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck alongside Giroud, but it was Monaco who were first to threaten a goal, with Joao Moutinho curling his shot over the bar.
Despite the slow tempo, the Gunners gradually began to take control in midfield and create half-chances of their own as they probed for a flaw in the notoriously tight Monaco defence.
Hector Bellerin got clear and whipped over a cross for Giroud, who got above his marker but failed to connect cleanly with the header, while Santi Cazorla struck a volley that Layvin Kurzala charged down.
However, the breakthrough arrived nine minutes before half-time when Welbeck threaded a pass to Giroud, whose initial attempt was smothered by Danijel Subasic – but the rebound fell neatly for the striker to sweep high into the net.
In the aftermath of that goal, the Gunners surged forward in search of another and Sanchez’s ball was only cleared to Welbeck, whose low drive was blocked on the line by Aymen Abdennour.
Giroud went close again just before half-time and Arsenal immediately recaptured the initiative at the start of the second period, with Subasic clawing Mesut Ozil’s dipping free-kick over the bar.
The home side responded with a good spell of possession and Wenger rang the changes, with Ramsey – surprisingly omitted from the starting line-up – sent on to replace Francis Coquelin.
The Welshman got involved straight away, combining with Hector Bellerin to set up a chance for Ozil, who drilled wide from the edge of the box.
At the other end, the pacy runs of Monaco substitute Yannick Ferreira Carrasco gave the Gunners a few headaches but, aside from a single cross-cum-shot, there was little end product to trouble David Ospina.
And Arsenal levelled the aggregate score with 12 minutes left as Nacho Monreal’s cross found Theo Walcott, who hit the post, but the loose ball was given away to Ramsey, who slammed it into the net.
The Gunners propelled bodies into the Monaco penalty area for the remainder of the game and Cazorla’s free-kick picked out the head of Sanchez, only for Subasic to frantically paw the ball away on the line.
That was as close as Arsenal came to a winner – and, despite their heroic performance, the outcome was a familiar one as they slid out of the competition again.
Arsenal: Ospina; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal (Gibbs 83); Cazorla, Coquelin (Ramsey 63); Sanchez, Ozil, Welbeck (Walcott 72); Giroud.