By Richard Clarke in Turin
A record has been put right. Arsenal have reached the Semi-Finals of Europe's top competition for the first time.
In 1972 Ajax denied them at the Quarter-Final stage, ditto Valencia in 2001 and Chelsea in 2004. But Arsenal were never going to be denied this evening in Turin.
They had forged a 2-0 lead with a steely yet sublime performance at Highbury. Eight days later they made history with a display of similar character in the Stadio delle Alpi.
Arsenal had the better of the first half but, not surprisingly, were pushed back after the interval as Juve chased the tie. Yet, despite the tension, the pressure and the occasion Arsène Wenger's young side never looked like buckling. This was a mature, controlled European performance from a side seemingly re-born in the past few months.
They have now shut-out Real Madrid and Juventus over two legs. Tonight's clean-sheet was their eighth in succession — a Champions League record.
But although they are in the last four for the first time there is still another record to put right. Arsenal were the only one of this season's eight seeded teams never to have won this prestigious competition. It remains a glaring gap in an otherwise illustrious history.
They are a step near to that dream. Two games with Villarreal and, here's hoping, a Final against Milan or Barcelona could make it a reality.
As expected, Francesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Eboue had recovered sufficiently to retain their places in the Arsenal team. Freddie Ljungberg started his first game since limping off against Liverpool on March 12. The Swede was part of a five-man midfield with Henry, on his 100 th appearance in Europe, the focal point of the attack.
Juve's side was shorn of Patrick Vieira, Mauro Camoranesi and Jonathan Zebina following their assorted cards at Highbury. Pavel Neved came back but surprisingly Lilian Thuram was left on the bench.
The start was relatively subdued. The hosts had to score at least twice but, should they concede, Juve would have needed double that amount. It seemed to affect them and Arsenal were the brighter side throughout the first period.
In the ninth minute, Jose Antonio Reyes and Alexander Hleb worked a short corner and eventually the Belarus midfielder swung the ball high to the far post. The unmarked Gilberto decided for placement over power. His sidefoot shot was blocked by a grounded defender. It was a better chance than it looked.
Juve were willing workers but there was little enterprise. On the quarter-hour, Jens Lehmann was sent scrambling across his area after Gianluca Zambrotta let fly from distance.
But, more often than not, the hosts were on the back foot.
In the 16th minute, Eboue's throw from the right was flicked on and Henry exchanged passes with Fabregas to send the Spaniard racing through. Unfortunately the ball got stuck under his feet at the vital moment and then Giuliano Giannichedda mopped up the danger for the hosts.
Arsenal were starting to look much the brighter team with the Fabregas-Henry axis starting to motor. In the 20th minute, the 18-year-old unleashed an optimistic high ball towards his captain on the edge of the area. Henry's first-touch turned optimism into realism. It was a wonderful piece of control that took him clear of Zambrotta. Unfortunately his shot was straight at Gianliugi Buffon.
It was a much more open game than one might have expected. Perhaps too open for the visitors given their advantage.
In the 27th minute, Giorgio Chiellini cracked a shot over the ball from a clever knockdown from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Three minutes later Philippe Senderos, who had stayed up front after a corner was cleared, saw his drive deflected wide for a corner.
Before half time, the right flank started to look a profitable outlet for Arsenal. Fabregas, once more impressive, was feeding Hleb intelligently while Eboue's overlaps were causing Juve's consternation.
A few minutes before the interval former sent the latter clear once more. The Ivorian showed terrific pace to reach the byline and cut in. However he got caught in two minds and ended up doing neither. Giannichedda closed him down and managed to deflect the ball behind of a corner. Reyes dithered over it and was booked for time-wasting. As a result he misses the Semi-Final first leg.
During the break, the usual Uefa statistics were handed out around the press box at the Stadio delle Alpi. They made interesting reading. Juve had forced one corner, three shots but, tellingly, none on target. Arsenal's numbers were six, four and four.
They might have added one goal to the scoreline in the first few minutes of the second half. Henry sprinted clear but his final touch was heavy and Buffon smothered the chance.
Juve responded up to a point. They were more pushing forward further but there was precious little inventiveness. In the 63 rd minute coach Fabio Capello threw on another striker — Marcelo Zalayeta. Neved immediately sent an inviting low cross into the area. But the ball was cleared and Fabregas saw the whites of Buffon's eyes. However his shot was straight at the Italian international keeper.
It was fast becoming the time for the hosts to pour forward. Lehmann clutched a defected drive by Ibrahimovic, the Swede then set up Nedved but Arsenal's keeper pulled off his first real save of the night.
With 11 minutes left Trezeguet could not wrap his foot around the ball faced with only Lehmann and six yards from goal. Soon afterwards, Neved clattered into Eboue and was sent off for a second yellow card.
At the death, Hleb and Ljungberg, twice, had spurned chances to win the tie.
No matter, Arsenal were through.
Now, for the first time, the Champions League Semi-Final awaits.
- Hleb 87
- Flamini Yellow Card
- Reyes 62 Yellow Card
- Pires 62
- Diaby 87
- Chiellini 66 Yellow Card
- Nedved Yellow Card Red Card
- Mutu 61
- Balzaretti 66
- Zalayeta 61