Milan, Italy – AC Milan put Arsenal to the sword in 0 win over the English side in the first leg of the Champions League knockout round on Wednesday.
The Italian giants scored two goals in both halves as Kevin-Prince Boateng and Robinho gave the Rossoneri a two-goal lead by halftime, while another Robinho strike and a penalty kick from Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed the win in the second half.
Robinho's brace gives him three Champions League goals for the season, while Ibrahimovic's late penalty sees him preserve his streak of scoring a goal in each of his Champions League appearances this year.
The home side went in front thanks to a beautiful finish in the 19th minute.
Boateng cushioned a pinpoint through ball with his chest on the right side of the box before smashing a volley on the turn into the upper corner of the goal. The ball rattled off the underside of the crossbar and crossed the goal line to hand Milan the lead in stunning fashion.
Antonio Nocerino nearly doubled the advantage moments later when he collected a ball on the right side of the box. The Italian midfielder dribbled inside before unleashing a rocket that sailed just inches high and wide of the goal.
Arsenal's failed attempt at an offside trap helped Milan extend the lead in the 38th minute.
Ibrahimovic broke free on the left flank and made a penetrating run down the side of the box. Arsenal's back four failed to recover as they waited for a raised flag from the assistant referee that never came. The Swedish hit man took advantage, centering the ball to Robinho who nodded his effort to the far post.
The Brazilian hooked up with Ibrahimovic again to produce Milan's third goal of the tie. Ibrahimovic slipped a pass inside to Robinho who capitalized on a fall from Thomas Vermaelen before firing a shot to beat Wojciech Szczesny at his near post.
Arsenal talisman Robin van Persie nearly grabbed a vital away goal in 66th minute with half-volley from close range, but Milan 'keeper Christian Abbiati thwarted the Dutchman's effort with a brilliant one-handed save.
Milan put the tie beyond any lingering doubt in the 78th minute when Ibrahimovic was brought down in the box by Johan Djourou.
The Swedish international slotted the ensuing penalty kick just inside the post to give the Rossoneri a more-than-comfortable 4-0 lead heading into the return leg.
The Gunners undeniably have a mountain to climb in the replay, which will be played on March 6 at the Emirates.
Zenit 3, Benfica 2
Saint Petersburg, Russia - Roman Shirokov scored twice to help Zenit win its first ever match in the knockout round of the Champions League as the Russian side edged Benfica, 3-2, at home on Wednesday.
The visitors grabbed the lead after 19 minutes when a free kick from Oscar Cardozo was stopped by Zenit goalkeeper Yuri Zhevnov but parried right into the path of Maxi Pereira. The Uruguayan defender calmly slotted the ball into the empty net to hand his side the opener.
Zenit responded quickly thanks to a classy finish from Shirokov. The 30-year- old connected on a cross in the 27th minute, guiding a one-time effort across the face of goal and into the far side of the net.
Another brilliant finish from Zenit saw the home side grab the lead in the 71st minute. A bouncing ball played in front of goal was met with great creativity as Sergei Semak flicked a shot behind his standing leg, off the far post and over the goal line.
Benfica took advantage of some more poor goalkeeping in the 87th minute when Zhevnov spilled a shot inside the six-yard box and patted the rebound directly in front of goal. Cardozo was at the right place at the right time and capitalized on the gaffe to level the score.
But Zenit restored its lead a minute later following some sloppy defending from the Portuguese side. A very poor attempt at a clearance helped Shirokov get through on goal. He evaded a defender and skipped past Benfica goalkeeper Artur before slipping a shot into the empty net from a tough angle.
Despite its one-goal deficit, Benfica is still well-positioned to progress as the two away goals mean that the Portuguese side would only have to claim a 1-0 win when the two sides meet at the Estadio da Luz on March 6.