Arsenal vs Bayern Munich
UEFA Champions League
Kick off: February 19, 2014 7.45 PM BST
A spirited defensive showing from Arsenal after going down to ten men, but a 2-0 defeat to the European champions nonetheless. It’s going to be a mountain to climb in the second leg, but we came away with a 2-0 win at the Allianz last March, so why not do it again?
The shock inclusion of Yaya Sanogo in the Arsenal line-up was a huge talking point before the game. With the heavy load Olivier Giroud has been dealing with as of late (not to mention his recent media issues), and the youngsters assured performance in the FA Cup, it wasn’t the craziest move by Wenger. Perhaps a bit of a gamble in a game of this size, but he produced another mature display tonight.
The first real chance fell to Toni Kroos, who’s blistering shot was palmed away from the top corner by Wojciech Szczesny, but after that it was all Arsenal in the early goings.
Neuer produced a world class reaction save to deny Sanogo, keeping the Frenchman’s side footed shot out with his feet. And you knew it wouldn’t be his last save, Arsenal constantly breaking the Bayern offside trap.
Arsenal were looking lively, and it looked like they were going to get off to a fantastic start when Wilshere played Özil in beautifully, and the German drove into the box. He cut back across Boateng, and the defender left a trailing leg in, bringing his compatriot down for an Arsenal penalty.
Özil stepped up to take it himself, but just like in Marseille, his casual run up resulted in a poor penalty; easily saved by Neuer.
There was a noticeable dip after the penalty miss, but Arsenal were still looking like the stronger side. Neuer being called into action again after good work from Sanogo put Chamberlain through on goal. The Bayern keeper was out of his goal quickly to narrowly beat the youngster to the ball, making a vital clearance to keep the scores level.
Mandzukic headed wide for Bayern after the German side attempted to outfox Arsenal with a tricky free kick, but Arsenal still looked relatively in control. That all changed at the half hour mark, when Keiran Gibbs suffered an injury, and was replaced by Nacho Monreal. The Spaniard was a definite step down from the pacey English full back, and was having real problems dealing with the overlapping runs of Robben and Lahm.
Monreal failed to track a run by Robben into the box, and a simple lofted ball was put through for the Dutch winger. Szczesny came out to claim it, but Robben got there first. The Pole’s trailing leg clipped the Bayern man, sending him tumbling to the floor; penalty for Bayern, red card for Szczesny.
Cazorla was brought off, and Fabianski replaced Szczesny in goal. He wasn’t required to make a save however, Alaba striking the post with his shot. Two first half penalties, zero goals at the whistle.
We kicked off the second half, and as was to be expected, Bayern dominated possession. Arsenal were under massive pressure from the visitors, the German side essentially setting up camp at the edge of the Arsenal box.
The Gunners were defending well, but there was very little they could have done to keep Toni Kroos’ effort out. After pinging it around the edge of the box for a while, the ball was cut back to Kroos, who put a fantastic curling effort into the top corner, giving Fabianski absolutely no chance. 1-0 Bayern.
Robben cut inside a couple of times and attempted to curl a few shots of his own. Fabianski held onto the first one well, the next two sailing comfortably wide.
Bayern’s main attacking threat was coming down their right side, Lahm, Robben, and later on Rafinha causing Monreal and Özil a real nightmare. It looked, however, as we approached the latter stages of the game, like Arsenal might get through with what under the circumstances would have been a respectable 1-0 deficit.
It wasn’t to be though, and two minutes from time Lahm put in a great ball for second half substitute Thomas Muller. The Bayern man had lost his marker, was in acres of space, and it was a fairly simple task to head past Fabianski. 2-0 Bayern, a real kick in the teeth for Gunners and Gooners alike.
Over all it could have been a lot worse once Arsenal went down to ten men, and the team showed great resilience to keep battling until the end. But it’s still majorly disappointing, especially considering our bright start. The internet is likely to be full of “what ifs” after tonight’s performance, but all there really is to do is to look toward the second leg.
on Szczesny’s red card…
I think these rules are different in every country, basically, in Italy they send off for this kind of foul. I think our keeper went genuinely for the ball, he touched Robben, who made certainly more of it, and I told him. Unfortunately it changed the game completely and didn’t just change the game but killed the game. The game was, until then, top quality, and in the second half it was boring for neutral people. It was one-way traffic. The referee made the decision that killed the game.
He has enough experience to know to make more of it. Overall I thought Bayern made a lot of every single contact, we are not used to that in England. There were fouls given today that usually are not given in the Premier League, but it’s different rules and we have to accept it.
on whether Szczesny denied a clear goalscoring opportunity…
Look, I can’t debate all night, I am not a good enough referee to say that. I need to see it again. Wojciech misjudged the situation, there was no clear desire to make a foul, he misjudged the ball. After that we lost Gibbs and we lose a goalkeeper and we had to make two changes and went down to 10 men with no opportunity to make a change at all after that, because you never know if a third player could get injured. You sit there and you cannot change anything, you cannot bring anybody on, you run after the ball and they can bring on fresh players. It killed the game completely.
on how the game changed…
I just feel frustrated. It was a great football game until half-time and it was no game at all after half-time. And on a European night that’s really frustrating because the game delivered what it promised at the start, but it was not the same game in the second half. We just had to try and keep it at 0-0 and try and get a chance on a set-piece or a counter-attack.
on Mesut Ozil’s penalty…
He missed a penalty… with his style of play… what can I say? They missed one as well. The regret I have is that we missed our penalty. We needed that tonight because you could see that Bayern was on the ropes at the start of the game. We had three good chances in the first 15 minutes, we started the game well. I feel too make them more insecure we needed to score that penalty. But he missed it.
on whether it affected Ozil…
Yes, he was affected by it. I think he wanted to do so well tonight that it affected him. You could see even five or 10 minutes later on the pitch he still was shaking his head. It had a huge impact on his performance. Our usual penalty takers were not on the pitch tonight, that’s why we had to decide. It was Ozil, Cazorla and Sagna. Cazorla missed as well, Ozil has missed, you think sometimes ‘OK, he missed from the penalty spot before, but he will not miss again’, but it can happen to anybody, you cannot reproach that.
on Ozil’s confidence…
Look, you are always concerned about the confidence of your players because that’s your petrol in a team. Your confidence is what gives them the desire to go and play. In our job you have to deal with that.
on leaving out Giroud…
It was just a decision based on performance. When I play Giroud in every game, people reproach me from playing him in every game. When I rest him, people reproach me for rested him. Tonight I rested him so you should be happy. It was not punishment, it was just a decision tonight. Giroud is a strong character, and what happened doesn’t influence his behaviour on the pitch. I just decided to give him a breather for one or two games, and to give him a chance to come back refreshed. As well I wanted to give an opportunity to Sanogo, and I think he did very well.
on the second leg…
It isn’t over because we will fight until the end. We knew at half-time we had to try and keep it at 0-0 and we will see what happens. It was a similar repetition to what happened last night at Man City. We were down to 10 men and conceded a goal in the last minute because maybe we wanted to score on the free-kick and got a bit caught on the counter-attack.
on bad luck against good teams…
You can come to the conclusion you want but I must say in the last five years we have played Barcelona twice, we have played Bayern twice… and they are not average.
Here are some of the top tweets from today’s game:
“@EastLower A free kick feels like a major win right now.
This is what it feels like to be a West Ham Supporter.”
“No matter how this finishes, this has been immense from Arsenal. Immense”
“Ah, that’s a killer.”
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Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs
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