ZURICH: Arsenal turned the form book upside down and gave manager Arsene Wenger much-needed respite with a shock 2-0 win away to AC Milan in the Europa League last night.
The London side, who had lost their last four games in all competitions and were facing a Milan team unbeaten in 13 matches, stunned the San Siro with first-half goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey in the round of 16 first leg.
With Arsenal sixth in the Premier League and Milan seventh in Serie A, the match was played in very different circumstances to their last clash six years ago.
On that occasion, both teams were Champions League regulars and met in the round of 16 of Europe’s top club competition.
Arsenal went ahead after 15 minutes after Mesut Ozil found Mkhitaryan on the left side of the penalty area and the Armenian scored with a deflected shot.
Having refound their confidence, Arsenal played some flowing football as they repeatedly caught Milan on the break, leaving the Serie A side’s coach Gennaro Gattuso red-faced with anger on the touchline.
Mkhitaryan rifled a shot against the crossbar before Ozil produced another inspired pass to send Ramsey clear and he rounded goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to add the second in the 45th minute.
Milan were more purposeful in the second half but Arsenal held out comfortably with a resilience missing from their recent performances.
Valon Berisha scored twice early in the second half to give Austrian champions Salzburg a 2-1 win at Borussia Dortmund, who replied through Andre Schuerrle.
Diego Costa helped Atletico Madrid take a big step towards the quarter-finals by scoring in a 3-0 victory over Lokomotiv Moscow.
Atletico will carry a commanding lead into the second leg in Russia.
Saul Niguez hit the net with a stunning strike at the Wanda Metropolitano before Costa made it two with an instinctive finish. Koke added a third late on to leave Lokomotiv with a mountain to climb next week.
Costa has six goals in 12 appearances since moving to Atletico from Chelsea in January.
Security around the game was ramped up amid fears of a repeat of the fan violence that marred Athletic Bilbao’s match against Spartak Moscow a fortnight ago.
Lokomotiv sit seven points clear at the top of the Russian Premier League but this is as far as the club has gone in Europe since reaching the Champions League last 16 in 2004.
Atletico, meanwhile, are rated as Europa League favourites with the bookmakers and, on this evidence, Diego Simeone’s side will take some stopping.
Lokomotiv managed only one shot on target in the 90 minutes.
Meanwhile, Olympique Lyonnais defied freezing conditions to win 1-0 at CSKA Moscow thanks to Marcelo’s second-half strike.