Midfielder Urby Emanuelson attributed AC Milan's progress to "faith" and an improved second-half performance as they reached the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals despite losing 3-0 at Arsenal FC in the round of 16.
Four goals to the good after a dominant first leg at San Siro, Milan's plan was to draw the sting out of the hosts by holding them off for the first quarter-hour. However, it was a tactic that was laid waste within seven minutes as Laurent Koscielny headed in, while Tomáš Rosický and Robin van Persie followed suit with two further unanswered goals in a disastrous first half for the Rossoneri.
"We are relieved to have got through, especially since we came in at half-time 3-0 down," Emanuelson told UEFA.com. "It was not what we wanted, but it happens sometimes and in the end we are just happy to be through to the next round. The plan was to just play our own game. We didn't want them to score in the first 15 minutes but we made a mistake early on with the corner and suddenly it was 1-0.
We gave Arsenal and the fans behind them something to believe in. They played a very good first half but we can be happy about our second half. We controlled the game a little bit more and played better and we made it through to the next round."
The hosts ran riot in the opening period, but Emanuelson almost brought a premature end to the Gunners' hopes of salvaging the tie when he played a wonderful pass into the area for Stephan El Shaarawy in the 45th minute, only for the 19-year-old to clip his shot over Wojciech Szczęsny and wide. "They scored their third goal just before half-time and it was not a good feeling to go in the dressing room 3-0 down," added Emanuelson. "They only needed the one goal to force extra time.
"We didn't play a good first half but we still had faith and trust in our team that we could get a good result. We just kept in our minds that we only needed one goal. We improved in the second half and we can be happy about it because they only had one big chance for Robin [van Persie]."
It was not pretty from Milan, but they did enough to win through to their first quarter-final in the competition since the season they last won it – in 2006/07, at a time when Emanuelson was still carving out a reputation for himself at AFC Ajax. "It's a long time since we reached the quarter-finals even though Milan have won it a lot of times," said the 25-year-old, signed from the Amsterdam club in January 2011.
"The last few years have been a little difficult but now we are playing well – except that first half tonight which we will make sure we forget very quickly – and we have had a good season until now, so we will keep fighting on all fronts and see how it all ends."
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