Four-goal AC Milan sweep Arsenal away; Zenit edge Benfica

Four-goal AC Milan sweep Arsenal away; Zenit edge Benfica

Brazilian striker Robinho scored twice as AC Milan took a huge stride towards the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 4-0 rout of Arsenal Tuesday, dpa reported.

Milan recovered from an early injury loss to captain Clarence Seedorf to sweep aside the Premier League side who barely created a chance and defended poorly at the San Siro.

In the evening's other first-leg tie, Roman Shirokov scored twice as Zenit St Petersburg beat Benfica 3-2.

Milan outclassed a poor Arsenal side who had a shocking night on a difficult surface, conceding a superb 15th-minute opener from Kevin-Prince Boateng, a brace from Robinho in the 38th and 49th minutes and a 79th-minute penalty from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Boateng stunned the visitors when he took a pass on his chest from Antonio Nocerino and blasted the ball from an angle in off the underside of the bar.

With Arsenal giving the ball away and looking increasingly shaky at the back, it was no surprise when Milan increased their lead when Ibrahimovic found room down the left to cross for Robinho to dart in with a header into the back of the net.

The Serie A leaders could have made it three when Ibrahimovic found Boateng in space, but this time the Ghana midfielder fired wide.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger reacted at half-time by bringing on Thierry Henry for Theo Walcott in the 34-year-old striker's last appearance on loan before returning to New York Red Bulls.

But it was Milan who struck again when Ibrahimovic fed Robinho in the 49th minute and after Thomas Vermaelen slipped the striker had space on the edge of the area to shoot inside Wojciech Szczesny's right-hand post.

Arsenal finally created a chance in the 66th minute when Henry back-heeled to Robin van Persie, whose shot was turned round the post by keeper Christian Abbiati.

But it was Milan who again struck when Ibrahimovic converted from the spot after he had been brought down by substitute Johan Djourou.

In St Petersburg, Shirokov hit the winner for Zenit two minutes from time just after Benfica had equalized through Rudolfo Cardozo, who benefited from a mistake by keeper Yury Zhevnov.

Zenit, the 2008 UEFA Cup winners, who are playing in the knock-out stage of the Champions League for the first time, went behind in the 20th minute through Maxi Pereira.

But Shirokov levelled seven minutes later and Zenit went in front in the 71st with a back-heel from Sergey Semak.

Benfica thought they had come away with at least a draw when keeper Zhevnov failed to hold a shot by Nicolas Gaitan and then parried the ball straight to Cardoza who had little trouble scoring.

But almost immediately Shirokov took advantage of Maxi Pereira's poor touch in front of his own goal to strike an angled winner.

The two second-leg ties take place on March 6. The last 16 continues with first-leg ties next Tuesday and Wednesday.

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