Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

It's all over for Arsenal in Champions League

Mueller time: Bayern's Thomas Mueller hails his decisive strike

Two down, just two to go. English clubs in the Champions League are dropping like flies.

On Tuesday Manchester City were all but eliminated by Barcelona and last night Arsenal suffered the same fate against Bayern Munich.

A pattern is emerging here... City had to play most of the second half with 10 men and lost 2-0...Arsenal had to play all of the second half with 10 men and lost 2-0. There may be return legs to come...don't go thinking though that Barcelona and Bayern will blow their leads.

Yes, last season the Gunners travelled to the Allianz Arena trailing 3-1 in the competition and scared the Bundesliga kings by winning 2-0, only going out on away goals, but it won't be that close or nervy this time.

Bayern won their domestic double in 2013 and the Champions League with Jupp Heynckes at the helm. In 2014, under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, they are even better. And yet early on Arsenal, who rocketed out of the traps, were on top and had a golden opportunity to make their dominance pay before 10 minutes had elapsed. What happened? Mesut Ozil, that's what!

His mental strength was questioned in Germany before this last 16 fixture and maybe you can understand why given his weak penalty easily saved by a grateful Manuel Neuer.

Ozil didn't even bother taking a run up... it was a walk up! Maybe Arsenal will wake up to the fact that Ozil is a rare breed, a German who can't take penalties!

Had he been spot on, with Jack Wilshere looking the player everyone thinks he should be, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain scaring the European champions with his pace and fearless youngster Yaya Sanogo causing the visitors problems at the back, Arsenal could have gone on to pull off something special.

Not to be. If you fail to take chances against this quality of opposition, there will be punishment. It should have come before the break when a magical chipped pass from Toni Kroos sent the dangerous Arjen Robben in on goal. The Dutchman beat Wojciech Szczesny to the ball and was felled in the box by the Arsenal goalkeeper.

David Alaba's pathetic penalty, which hit the post, gave the Gunners respite but with Szczesny correctly sent off, it was only a matter of time before Bayern would pierce the home defence.

Barcelona are tough to take on with 10 men. Bayern tougher still. They stretched Arsenal to the limit, moving the ball from flank to flank at pace to carve out openings. It was relentless from Guardiola's side who had 88% possession in the second half. Arsenal simply could not get out. A goal had to come and when it did on 54 minutes it was a beauty from the classy Kroos, fizzing a sensational swerving right foot shot past replacement goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Encouraged by Gooners feeling their pain, Arsene Wenger's players showed fantastic spirit. A 1-0 loss against Bayern would have been like a moral victory, but when substitute Thomas Muller, who always seems to score against English sides, finished a clever pass from Philipp Lahm on 88 minutes, like the previous night at the Etihad, the game and tie was up.

Chelsea and Manchester United, it's down to you now.

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