Arsenal weren’t overly confident about facing Bayern Munich, and will be even less confident going into the second leg. Ozil’s early penalty miss and Szczesny’s red card swung the game away from Arsenal’s grasp as they face an even steeper challenge after falling to a 2-0 defeat. Big team news included Bayern’s absence of Ribery and Yaya Sanogo getting his first Champions League appearance in place of Olivier Giroud, whose off-the-field controversies have surrounded him recently.
The first half started as you’d expect, with Bayern on top; Kroos cannoned a shot towards the top corner only to be denied by an athletic Szczesny save. The new man up front, Yaya Sanogo, was thrust immediately into the fray, driving past two defenders. From there though, Arsenal seemed to engage in a lot of pressing. Alaba looked shaky and was constantly exploited by the pace and clever running of Oxlade-Chamberlain.
A Wilshere through ball was enough to slice open one of the Bundesliga’s greatest defenses and Ozil was away. A cheeky Ronaldo heel chop turned him inside Boateng, who brought Ozil down with a clumsy, dangling leg. Ozil’s class didn’t follow through into his penalty as he stuttered, and his poor penalty was saved by the best in the business: his school friend Manuel Neuer.
Bayern slowly crept back into the game but there were still good signs for Arsenal. Oxlade-Chamberlain was always a threat but the opening came shortly after an injury to Gibbs. As Monreal replaced the injury-prone Brit, it wasn’t long before he should’ve been called into action.
An exquisite ball over the top from Toni Kroos set the ball bouncing through. Robben got his toe to it, dinking it up and around Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who dashed out and took Robben out. Rizzoli pointed to the other spot this time and Szczesny was sent off, handing Arsenal’s an even steeper mountain to climb. Alaba stepped up to take the penalty, and although the technique was perfect, he hit the post while Fabianski dived in the opposite direction. Alaba has missed two of his last three penalty kicks, while Ozil missed all of his last three.
Half-time came round and the game was still at a stalemate.
Rafinha replaced Boateng just before the second half kicked off – Boateng could well have been sent off for a potentially 2nd bookable offence (a trip higher up the pitch). Kroos had his sighter in the first half but finished it off in the second half. A short pass from Lahm to the edge of the box is perfectly weighted for Kroos, who curls it into the top corner. It was another moment of class from a truly sensational player.
Bayern continued to press and it was starting to look like a long old night for the Gunners. Kroos, – the orchestrator – Robben and Rafinha ran a mockery down the right-hand side. Muller replaced Mandzukic and the dominance continued. Arsene’s last throw of the dice was to bring Oxlade-Chamberlain off to be replaced by Tomas Rosicky. Bayern could well have had a second penalty when Muller turned back inside and was caught by Koscielny. All six officials though were unconvinced. Soon after, Claudio Pizarro replaced Thiago with 78 minutes on the clock.
Bayern continued to dominate and it was on the 88th minute that Muller put Arsenal to the sword after expertly guiding a header past Fabianski. It was curtains for Arsenal, and whilst the Bayern fans celebrated in the corner, the Gooners searched for the exit.
On the whole, Arsenal shouldn’t be too disheartened. The red card changed the game and they certainly put a shift in, but a lot of the second half for Bayern was played at pedestrian speed. The Guardiola philosophy of recycling possession until the clear opening occurs dominated proceedings. Bayern Munich completed 808 passes tonight whereas Arsenal only completed 150. You’d just have to wonder what would’ve happened if Ozil had scored, and it’s that sense of ‘what if’ that’ll be the most painful to Arsenal fans.
Written by Huw Saunders