Arsenal progressed serenely into the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in their history with a thoroughly professional performance against Italian giants Juventus.
The Gunners drew 0-0 — winning 2-0 on aggregate — yesterday against a less than inspired Juventus outfit, whose appalling disciplinary record in the quarter final saw a third player sent off in Pavel Nedved.
Arsenal’s patched together defence — missing England regulars Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell, although the latter was available for selection yesterday — also racked up a record eighth straight clean sheet in the competition.
They can go into a semi-final against surprise packages Villarreal with confidence, though will be mindful that the Spaniards have already seen off three British sides in Everton, Manchester United and Rangers.
In the other quarter final match, Barcelona set up a mouth-watering clash with AC Milan — who thrashed them 4-0 in the 1994 final — after beating plucky Portuguese side Benfica 2-0, also 2-0 on aggregate.
Ronaldinho overcame having an early penalty saved to open the scoring in the 19th minute with a beautifully worked goal but the Catalan giants had to wait until a minute from time to ensure the last four spot as Samuel Eto’o scored.
While Arsenal rightly celebrated their best ever showing in the competition — two quarter final places being their previous best — it was not enough for their inspirational French striker Thierry Henry.
“If Arsenal can stay in this kind of physical shape, they will definitely be very hard to beat,” said Capello, who masterminded several European Cup victories with AC Milan in the early 90s.
Another AC Milan old boy Barcelona handler Frank Rijkaard was nonchalant about facing his old club as he displayed his new-found diplomacy which he had rarely shown as an uncompromising if stylish central defender turned midfielderx. “I think it will be a very interesting game against a very strong team. Personally, for me, I already played against Milan a lot of times as a player and as a coach — so it’s not that new for me. It’s just another game.”
Serie A not enough for Juve fans
TURIN: Winning the Italian league title isn’t enough for Juventus fans. They want the Champions League, too. For the 10th straight season, they’re not going to get it. “I realize the (league title) doesn’t provide much excitement anymore but it’s still important to bring home a trophy,” goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. “I don’t think this season was a failure. There are teams that don’t win anything.”
Juve are on course for its record 29th Serie A title and second straight. They hold a nine-point lead on AC Milan with six rounds remaining. But it’s the third straight year the Turin giants were eliminated from Europe by a team they was favoured to beat, failing to score in the return game at home each time. In 2004, Deportivo La Coruna beat Juve 1-0 in both legs of the Round of 16 and Liverpool followed a 2-1 win at home over the Bianconeri with a 0-0 draw. —AP