MONTE CARLO: Arsenal proved officials, players and fans all right as their Champions League dream came to an end in dramatic style in the Stade Louis II. Beaten 3-1 at home, Arsene Wenger’s men secured a 2:0 victory on the night but were unable to find the goal that would have taken them to the quarter-finals.
As Wenger had said, Arsenal played their worst match of the season in the first leg and, as he also said, they proved capable of going away and winning.
The Gunners came close enough to a near-miracle that there will be no talk of a crisis, particularly assuming they maintain their smooth league cruise back into the Champions League spots for an 18th successive season.
A particular bright spot was the form of Welshman Aaron Ramsey who scored the excitement-generating second goal after appearing as a substitute. Had Ramsey been fully fit he would have been in Wenger’s starting line-up but, after starting – and scoring – in the win over West Ham he gave way to Santi Cazorla.
Olivier Giroud made amends for the first-leg failings by scoring Arsenal’s first in Monaco and 12 goals in his last 17 games have underlined his enduring value.
Ramsey said: “We’ve always gone out to Bayern Munich and Barcelona at this stage but, with no disrespect to Monaco, we thought we had a good opportunity to qualify. But we gave ourselves a tough test from the first leg.”
Per Mertesacker added: “We tried absolutely everything and we could have scored more than two. But Monaco deserve to go through and that’s absolutely fine. They caused us a lot of problems away from home. We have to admit that we regret the first game.”
Mertesacker was pushed forward by Arsenal in the last couple of minutes and Wenger might have taken that risk a little earlier during the later stages with nothing to lose.
Mesut Ozil had less of an impact than Arsenal would have wanted. He will also find that Gunners fans did not appreciate seeing him exchange shirts with Monaco’s Geoffrey Kondogbia at half-time.
** Atletico de Madrid, last season’s European runners-up, reached the quarter-finals after beating Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 on penalties. Each team won 1-0 at home.