ARSENAL 0-2 BAYERN MUNICH
The Champions League knockout stages, and it was only befitting of a competition of such stature to feature a heavyweight clash between the reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich and Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. Bayern, only losing once all season in a competitive fixture, travelled to the Emirates on the back of a six-game winning run in the Bundesliga, whilst Arsenal have hit a patch of form that has seen them unseated from the top of the Premier League – it was always going to be pivotal for ‘The Gunners’ to recapture some of their early season form against such impressive opposition.
Things were not looking promising for the game ahead for Arsenal when Bayern started strongly with Toni Kroos’ well-struck effort from just outside the box forced a fantastic save from ‘Gunners’ keeper Wojciech Szczesny. It was the warning that Arsenal needed however, as it seemed to spark the North London side into action, with some tough battling from Wilshere up against Bayern’s defence providing a chance for Yaya Sanogo that saw the 21-year old French striker force a good save from Neuer. Only a minute later, Arsenal were left with another fantastic chance to put themselves in front.
A quick break from Arsenal saw Jack Wilshere thread a great pass through to Mesut Özil, who faked the shot superbly to force a somewhat clumsy foul in the penalty box from Jerome Boateng – a foul which the Germany centre half may be considered lucky to have escaped a red card for. It was Özil who stepped up to take the spot kick, but perhaps indicative of Arsenal’s record signing’s poor from at the moment, he never looked confident to convert the penalty and his weak effort was saved by Manuel Neuer. Clearly frustrated with his spurning of such a good chance for his side, Özil’s performance never recovered as Bayern gradually came back into the game.
When Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs went down injured and had to be replaced by Nacho Monreal, Bayern really turned the screw and worked well to forge space around the edge of the Arsenal area, but Arsenal’s defence stood strong and limited the Bavarian sides chances. When Arjen Robben lost his defender and brought down a well-weighted lobbed pass from man of the match Toni Kroos, Szczesny came running off his line to meet the Dutch winger – however, Robben’s touch took the ball past Szczesny and the Poland national team keeper brought down Robben, a foul which the referee deemed worthy of a red card and penalty. David Alaba stepped up to take the penalty against substitute keeper Fabianski, however, he could not capitalise on the chance his side had been handed and despite sending the keeper the wrong way, Alaba’s strike hit the post instead of the back of the net.
After the half time break, Bayern came out looking much more like the dominant Bayern Munich side we have become so familiar with under both Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola, and it wasn’t long before they found themselves in front.
Despite Arsenal’s best efforts to close down and press the German side, Toni Kroos found himself with enough room just outside the Arsenal area to fire home the ball first-time from a Phillip Lahm pass, with the ball curling high up into the top corner of the Arsenal goal. It was a strike of the highest quality and it put Bayern firmly in front in the tie – from there, Bayern never really looked back.
Bayern’s sumptuous passing had worn out the Arsenal side, and with the away side firmly in control they struck again through substitute Thomas Muller. As the ball came out to Phillip Lahm on the right flank, Claudio Pizzaro’s excellent run opened up enough space for Muller to run in to, and the Bayern Munich captain picked out the forward with a great pass that saw Muller head the ball down past Fabianski to double Bayern’s lead and compound 10-man Arsenal’s misery.
With the clock ticking down, Bayern did not stop there and like a shark smelling blood they were out for more goals. In a similar move to the one that saw him put his side ahead, Toni Kroos’ first time shot hit the post, with the German unlucky to see another effort kept out. It was a performance of the highest quality for his side, and one that displays clearly why he has been one of the most talked-about youngsters in football for some time now.
With an away leg at the Allianz Arena in Munich still to come on 11th March, the tie is far from over – in last season’s Champions League campaign, Arsenal came very close to overturning a two-goal deficit away at Bayern, but they will need to perform much better over the 90 minutes than they did tonight. Will ‘The Gunners’ be able to stop the seemingly unbeatable Bayern Munich, or will the Bavarian giants overcome their opposition as they look ahead to a second consecutive UEFA Champions League trophy?
ARSENAL: Szczęsny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs (Monreal 31), Flamini, Wilshire, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Rosicky 74), Özil, Cazorla (Fabiański 39), Sanogo.
SUBS NOT USED: Jenkinson, Gnabry, Podolski, Giroud.
BOOKINGS: Sanogo 55, Rosicky 86.
SENT OFF: Szczęsny 37.
BAYERN: Neuer, Lahm, Alaba, Boateng (Rafinha 45+1), Dante, Thiago (Pizarro 79), Javi Martinez, Robben, Kroos, Götze, Mandzukic (Müller 64).
SUBS NOT USED: Starke, Van Buyten, Contento, Schweinsteiger.
GOALS: Kroos 54, Müller 88.
BOOKINGS: Boateng 8, Mandzukic 45+1.
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