LONDON: Milan went through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League by defeating Arsenal 4-3 on aggregate – but only just after the Gunners fell just short in their valiant effort to make Champions League history.

Looking to be the first team in the Champions League era to overcome a four-goal deficit, the Gunners started superbly, going two up thanks to Laurent Koscielny’s header and a strike from the excellent Tomas Rosicky.

Robin van Persie’s penalty at the end of the first half put the Gunners on course for the most improbable of upsets but they ran out of steam after the break and Milan progressed to the quarter-finals.

Manager Arsene Wenger said: “The team can only be proud of their performance. They have fantastic spirit but we have paid the price for a bad first game.”

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said: “We suffered in the first half but then we were fantastic as we only let them have one real chance. We could have done better, but in the end we got the result and qualified.”

Benfica reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 2006 by defeating ring-rusty Zenit St Petersburg 2-0 in Lisbon and 4-3 on aggregate.