In a golden generation of young stars led by Kaka
, Cristiano Ronaldo
and Lionel Messi
, it's easy to overlook Spaniard Cesc Fabregas
, but he has been just as influential, leading Arsenal to first place in the English
Premier League and past defending champion AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League.
Arsenal's 2-0 victory over Milan Wednesday at San Siro marked the passing of the torch, as
Fabregas and the other young Gunners outplayed an aging Milan team short of ideas.
Where Manchester United failed last spring Arsenal succeeded on Wednesday thanks to late goals from
Fabregas (who had earlier hit the crossbar) and Emmanuel Adebayor
(fed by teen Theo Walcott)
Fabregas was one of only three starters (along with Ivorian Emmanuel Eboue
and Belarus star Alexander Hleb
) who started
two years ago when Arsenal lost to Barcelona in the final of the UEFA Champions League. Since that defeat and the departure of Thierry Henry
last summer, Arsenal
has been reshaped in the image of Fabregas, who combined style and grit in anchoring the Arsenal midfield that stymied Milan.
"We gave the performance we wanted," said Arsenal
manager Arsene Wenger
. "We played with organization. We never dropped off, we closed them down and never gave them time. Overall we played with
authority, maturity and talent." ROUND OF 16, SECOND LEG March 4 in Milan AC Milan 0 Arsenal 2.
Goals: Fabregas 84, Adebayor 90+1. AC Milan --
Kalac, Oddo, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze, Gattuso, Pirlo,
Ambrosini, Kaka, Alexandre Pato, Inzaghi (Gilardino, 70). Arsenal --
Almunia, Sagna, Senderos, Gallas, Clichy, Eboue (Walcott, 72), Fabregas, Diaby,
Flamini, Hleb (Gilberto, 90+1), Adebayor. Referee:
Konrad Plautz (Austria) Att.:
81,879. (Arsenal win 2-0 on aggregate) March 4 in Seville Sevilla 3 Fenerbahce 2.
Goals: Daniel Alves 5, Keita 9, Kanoute 41; Deivid 20, 79. Sevilla --
Palop, Daniel Alves, Escude, Dragutinovic, Adriano, Navas (Kone, 105),
Poulsen (Maresca, 91), Keita, Capel, Luis Fabiano (Renato, 78), Kanoute. Fenerbahce --
Volkan, Gokhan, Lugano, Edu, Gokcek, Deivid, Selcuk (Semih, 63),
Mehmet Aurelio, Ugur (Kazim Kazim, 111), Alex (Ali, 112), Kezman. Referee:
Massimo Busacca (Switzerland). Att.:
45,000. (Aggregate: 5-5; Fenerbahce win 3-2 on penalties) March 4 in Barcelona Barcelona 1 Celtic 0.
Goal: Xavi 3. Barcelona --
Valdes, Zambrotta, Thuram, Puyol, Silvinho, Xavi (Gudjohnsen, 82), Toure
(Edmilson, 67), Deco, Ronaldinho, Messi (Henry, 38), Eto'o. Celtic --
Boruc, Wilson, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Nakamura, Brown, Hartley
(McDonald, 78), Donati (Svo, 46), McGeady, Vennegoor of Hesselink (Samaras 54). Referee:
Pieter Vink (Netherlands). Att.:
75,000. (Barcelona win 4-2 on aggregate.) March 4 in Manchester Manchester United 1 Lyon 0.
Goal: Cristiano Ronaldo 41. Manchester United --
van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic,
Evra, Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson (Tevez, 70); Cristiano Ronaldo (Hargreaves, 90+1), Rooney, Nani. Lyon --
Coupet, Clerc, Squillaci, Cris, Grosso,
Kallstrom (Fred 79), Toulalan, Juninho, Ben Arfa, Govou (Keita, 68), Benzema. Referee:
Roberto Rosetti (Italy). Att.:
75,520. (Manchester United win 2-1 on aggregate)