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Aaron Ramsey celebrates his goal against AC Milan
Missing in action in three of Arsenal’s last four defeats – he didn’t play in the loss to Ostersunds – Ozil was back to his mesmerising best in the San Siro.
The 29-year-old pulled the strings by setting up first Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who also hit the woodwork, and then Aaron Ramsey as Arsenal sailed into a two-goal lead against AC Milan.
This was the Germany star who terrorised La Liga with Real Madrid and helped his country win the 2014 World Cup. The man Arsene Wenger decided was worth £350,000 a week.
About time he showed up. Arsenal were bidding to avoid a fifth straight loss for the first time since way back in 1977, and they had to rip up the form book to pull it off. Milan were unbeaten in 13 going into it. They hadn’t conceded a goal in six matches. They had lost just one of their previous 20 games in European competitions in their own stadium.
By contrast, Wenger was so concerned about his own side’s form he even claimed before kick-off they had “forgotten how good they are”. Ozil, for one night at least, remembered.
For Wenger, it wasn’t quite an old master painting another masterpiece though. But it did at least paper over some of the cracks that have been appearing this season.
Arsenal were still wide open at times. They rode their luck. But they stopped the rot, kept a clean sheet, eased the pressure on their manager, and are suddenly big favourites to win the tie.
Who would have thought all that was possible after Sunday’s dismal defeat at Brighton and all the fall-out that followed?
They made a shaky start with AC Milan fizzing the ball across David Ospina’s goal, but they should have led when the first of many brilliant Ozil passes picked out Jack Wilshere bombing forward.
The Gunners midfielder started in the No 10 role, but despite being clean through he chose to pass out wide to Mkhitaryan, who struck the side netting.Moments later Patrick Crutone did the same at the other end for Milan, and Arsenal were fortunate again when Ospina almost conceded a penalty.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan celebrates his goal
He came rushing out and caught Hakan Calhanoglu, but the Milan forward didn’t go down and French referee Clement Turpin waved away the home side’s appeals. Both those chances came down Arsenal’s right, where Calum Chambers was standing in as a makeshift right back for the injured Hector Bellerin.
But goals change games, and the Gunners scored a big one in the 15th minute when Mkhitaryan struck gold, and it was Ozil who created it. Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso revealed he had spent his nights leading up to the game thinking about how he could stop the German.
But it was his pinpoint chipped pass which picked out Mkhitaryan, who cut inside Leonardo Bonucci before firing home his first goal for Arsenal into the top corner off the Milan skipper’s back.
Bonucci was inches away from heading Milan level from a Calhanoglu corner, but Mkhitaryan then pinged one off the crossbar at the other end after Danny Welbeck broke away to find him in space.
Arsene Wenger’s side are now favourites to progress into the last eight
Arsenal still managed to go into half time two goals up though. Ozil again was the orchestrator, feeding Ramsey with a wonderful defence-splitting pass.
And the Welsh wizard cast a spell on dosy Donnarumma, dancing around him with ease before slotting home the easiest of finishes.
Milan had their moments. But Laurent Koscielny blocked shots and won headers, and Ospina was rarely tested. By the time Ozil strolled slowly off to be replaced by Rob Holding, to a deafening chorus of whistles from the home fans in the 72, 821 crowd, the Italians were getting desperate.
Ospina did have to be alert to race off his line and clear from Nikola Kalinic before it was over, but by the end he had only faced a single shot on target.
AC Milan (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Calabria (Borini 79), Romagnoli, Bonucci, Rodriguez; Bonaventura, Biglia, Kessie; Suso, Cutrone (Silva 69), Calhanoglu (Kalinic 62). Subs: Panchina: Donnarumma A., Zapata, Locatelli, Montolivo
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Chambers (Elneny 85), Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac (Maitland-Niles 62); Xhaka, Ramsey; Ozil (Holding 80), Wilshere, Mkhitaryan; Welbeck. Subs: Cech, Iwobi, Nelson, Nketiah.
Referee: Clément Turpin (France)