Bayern Munich v Arsenal
UEFA Champions League
Kick off: March 11, 2014 7.45 PM BST
A commendable performance from an Arsenal side that were never really expected to win. Getting a result at the Allianz Arena is a difficult enough task, but going into the game on the back of a red card and a 2-0 deficit from the first leg made progression practically impossible.
It was clear that a very attacking Arsenal side was set up to hit on the counter, understanding that Bayern would see most of the ball. And it looked like they could get some joy, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showing a great touch and pace to burn, forcing Dante to commit a tactical foul; the Brazilian seeing an early yellow.
Arsenal were penned in for a lot of the first half, Bayern piling the pressure on from the wings, Alaba and Lahm overlapping their wingers to good effect. Arsenal were themselves threatening down the wings though, Podolski shrugging off Martinez before whipping in a dangerous cross towards Giroud. It never reached the Frenchman though, Dante with the block.
Arsenal had to be equally aware of Bayern’s counter attacking threat, Robben spurning a chance when he struck a Ribery cross into the floor, the ball rising over the Arsenal bar.
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It looked for a moment like the Munich side had extended their lead through Javi Martinez, the Bayern man connecting with a free kick, and bundling the ball into the back of the net. His celebrations were short lived however, as the goal was ruled out, Martinez correctly given offside.
Arsenal’s best chance of the half began after an unbelievable run from the Ox, the young Englishman weaving his way past one, then a second, then a third, and then a fourth, before being brought down by Schweinsteiger at the edge of the box. How the German didn’t see yellow was a mystery, Arsenal fans especially outraged as Arteta and Podolski had gone into the book moments earlier. The resulting free kick was deflected wide, and Giroud rose high above the Bayern defence to head the corner goalwards. It was a decent header, but Neuer was up to it and made the save.
Arguably Bayern’s best chance of the half fell to Mandzukic, who somehow headed over from ten yards. But the German side were creating a number of chances, shots blocked, saved, and watched wide from Gotze, Schweinsteiger and Alaba.
It was goalless at the break, and Arsenal needed to make something happen in the second half. Their cause wasn’t helped by an Özil injury, the German being replaced by Rosicky, suffering from a tight hamstring. He hadn’t been having the best game, but you never want to be forced into a substitution.
A few minutes into the second period, Arjen Robben went down in the box, a clear dive from the Dutch winger; rightly told to get to his feet by the ref. It should have been a yellow, but the cards stayed firmly in his pocket.
Shortly later, Bayern took the lead through Bastian Schweinsteiger. Ribery showing good feet to ghost past Sagna, before picking out Schweinsteiger in the middle, who had been given a free run into the box by Cazorla and Chamberlain. He waited for Fabianski to go to ground, before chipping it over the Arsenal man and into the net. 1-0 Bayern.
The lead only lasted a matter of minutes however, Lukas Podolski levelling things up for Arsenal in emphatic style. The German attempted a one-two with Cazorla, but the Spaniard appeared to have over hit the return pass. Lahm intercepted, but Podolski out-muscled the Bayern man, and drilled a powerful shot past Neuer from a ridiculously tight angle. Bayern were outraged that Podolski wasn’t penalized for a push on Lahm, but the referee was having none of it, and the goal stood.
Bayern seemed momentarily shaken after the goal. Chamberlain forcing a save from Neuer, Podolski almost picking out Giroud during a fantastic counter, and the Frenchman almost doing the same with Rosicky after a poor Neuer clearance.
With the exception of his distribution, Fabianski had been solid all night. But a couple of late saves upgraded his performance to fantastic. Firstly he smothered the ball after Mandzukic was played into the box from a flowing Bayern move. And then pulled off a fantastic double save from Thomas Muller, after Robben earned the home side a late penalty from a somewhat clumsy Koscielny challenge. The Polish keeper made the first stop with his foot as he dived in the opposite direction, sending the ball spinning along the goal line. He then dived back across goal to push the ball out of danger, as Muller slid in to pounce on the rebound.
It was a valiant attempt from the Gunners, but in the end it was too big an ask for the London side. The tie finishing 1-1 on the night, 3-1 on aggregate.
on his assessment of the game…
We played a 1-1 tonight. I feel we had to defend a lot in the first half but we knew that being in the game at half-time we had a good chance to win the game. I believe that in the second half the opportunities were there but overall over the two games I feel that what made the difference is the decision to send our goalkeeper off in the first game. We played a 1-1 tonight and that decision had a huge impact. It was on the same player who got a penalty again tonight and that’s the regret we have. Spirit wise we had everything until the end. Good luck to Bayern, they are a good side but I think they are this season more vulnerable than last year.
on Mesut Ozil…
He has a hamstring problem that looks quite serious.
on how long he will be out for…
I don’t know.
on whether Ozil will miss the Spurs game…
For sure he’s out. We have to make a scan tomorrow to see how bad it is but he’s out for at least a few weeks. I hope it’s not too bad.
on the team’s defining tonight…
Our defending, our spirit was good. The frustration we had was the last 20 minutes I felt that Bayern was very vulnerable defensively and that we didn’t take advantage of that. We always missed the first pass but I felt the situations were there where we could have made more of it. At the end of the day we never got them really under pressure. Even at 1-1 you could see they became suddenly nervous but because we never managed to make it 2-1, of course you could not really see how they would have responded. They are a good team, they are a great side with great players. They played well but we still have regrets over the two games.
on another last 16 exit…
When you go out in the last 16 you are right, it doesn’t get closer. The regret we have is now in the last five years we played twice Barcelona, twice Bayern and every time when these teams are at the top of their game. I must say in the last two years it was at home that we were done very harsh because away from home you look at our record in Germany we have not lost for a long time. But it’s at home that we were caught. I think especially this season, the decision to send our goalkeeper off at home was the big part in that tie.
on Podolski’s goal being a foul…
It looked to me a foul yes.
He was not eligible because he was not qualified to play in the Champions League because I wanted to give him out on loan so we took him out of the list and Uefa informed us today that he is not qualified. Because he was on the bench on Sunday, naturally he was with us but honestly that had no impact on tonight’s result.
on taking a lot of heart from the performance…
I have to congratulate the players for the heart and the effort they put in tonight. They have been absolutely outstanding on that front. We wanted to come out of that tie tonight qualified and with pride. We did the second part, not the first part.
on Szczesny’s red card in the first leg…
I felt it was not a red card, it’s as simple as that. Any foul in the box is then a red card. Even Uefa has come out and said that they have to re-think that problem. First of all for me it was not a goalscoring opportunity because if Szczesny is really assured he can get a foul against him as well for a high foot of Robben. This situation can be analysed in both ways where you can give a foul against Robben for his foot being too high. But if you look well [at it] again when the ball goes after the control you will see that he never had a goal chance because the ball was in the feet of Sagna so it was never, never a goalscoring opportunity.
He’s a fantastic player, I would not deny that, he’s one of the best players in the world. But he gets in front of a player and then he slows down and goes down. He gets the free-kicks. That’s where we spoke about yesterday that the referee, if he gives him a yellow card on the first one when he goes down, he will not do it again.
Here are some of the top tweets from today’s game:
“Oxlade Chamberlain is unbelievable.”
“Can’t work out where Chamberlain plays best, good winger, good playmaker, good centre midfielder powerhouse. Clone him.”
“Per says “you shall not pass!”
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Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Vermaelen(C)
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