Bayern Munich 1-1 Arsenal (agg 3-1): Arsene Wenger's team knocked out of Champions League by Germans again
Arsenal needed a miracle on a night when all they could muster was the usual stoicism. Arsene Wenger’s team left the Allianz Arena tonight having dug in, avoided defeat and generally shown themselves to be of good character in the face of a formidable opponent. They are also out the Champions League once again.
In the end, the only shock was that Thomas Muller, one of those usually pitilessly accurate German penalty-takers, had a spot-kick saved in injury time at the end of the game. Otherwise the outcome was all distinctly, depressingly familiar for Arsenal
For the fourth time in four years, Wenger’s team have failed to make it to the quarter-finals and this tie has demonstrated the gulf between them and the very best in the competition. One hesitates to say that it was men against boys but you only need to know that even with the away team chasing a two-goal deficit from the first leg at the Emirates it was Bayern Munich who did the most of the attacking.
Pep Guardiola’s team are a truly wonderful side to watch, even if they could not quite unpick an Arsenal team that sat deep and played a five-man midfield for the first half. Bastian Schweinsteiger seemed to have the killed the tie in the 54th minute with the night’s first goal. Lukas Podolski’s equaliser for Arsenal owed much to a crafty shove in the back of Philipp Lahm which outraged the home fans.
That aside it was hard to envisage Wenger’s players pulling off the turnaround of a lifetime, not against a team that has such quality in every layer, right down to the unflappable Manuel Neuer in goal. Bayern have lost one game here since Arsenal won the second leg of their tie here this time last year – the dead rubber against Manchester City – and it was not hard to see why that was the case.
Even so, you might have hoped for some dramatic intervention from one of Wenger’s bigger names. Mesut Ozsil, peripheral in the first half came off injured in the break. Olivier Giroud was off the pace. Only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, impressive again, seemed to embrace the occasion.
From Guardiola, a selection with no Toni Kroos or Muller in the starting XI with both of them on a bench that looked formidable. For Arsenal there were only six substitutes after it was discovered that Ryo Miyachi, who had travelled with the squad, was ineligible for Champions League football.
It was not the most auspicious start to the night for Arsenal who put it down to an administrative oversight. In fact, a blunt view was that it was purely amateurish, however slim Miyaichi’s chances of playing a part in the game.
Wenger’s pre-match view that Arsenal could afford to take their time when it came to risking anything was borne out by their approach to the first half which they survived with the two-goal deficit intact. It was Bayern who did all the attacking and the away side who, in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Ozil out on a limb on the right wing, as good as parked the bus.
Evidently the philosophy was that Arsenal could wait to score – but they could not afford to concede a third goal in the tie. Sitting deep, with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in sparkling form when it came to interceptions and astute blocks, they survived to half-time. Bayern put the ball in the net once when the converted centre-back Javi Martinez volleyed in Thiago Alcantara’s ball from the right but it was disallowed for offside.
On the right side, Ozil was as good as invisible. Arsenal’s best player before the break was the only Englishman on the pitch, Oxlade-Chamberlain, who announced his presence with a bold run forward on eight minutes that drew a foul from Dante and earned the Brazilian defender a booking.
Another run by the man they call “the Ox” on the half hour was only stopped by another foul by Schweinsteiger – which should have earned him a booking but did not – and won Arsenal a dangerous free-kick. When that was deflected behind, Ozil’s corner was met by Giroud. His header, saved, was the best Arsenal chance of the first half.
Otherwise it was a case of a dominant Bayern trying to draw Arsenal out and get in behind them. They had the most success down the side Ozil and Bacary Sagna tried to defend against David Alaba and Franck Ribery. The best Bayern chances of the half fell to Arjen Robben, the first when he hit a high bouncing shot from Ribery’s cross over the bar. On 38 minutes the loose ball fell to him in the area and he hit a snapshot that was not quick enough to beat Lukasz Fabianski.
The second-choice goalkeeper, in for the suspended Wojciech Szczesny, stopped a shot from Mario Gotze just before the break. Having accomplished the first part of the Arsenal plan it was intriguing to see when Wenger would signal a change of approach
A fairly wretched evening’s football ended at half-time for Ozil who was substituted with what was described as a tight hamstring. If Wenger was looking to make a change that only made it easier, because on form alone Ozil was the obvious candidate.
Instead, it was Tomas Rosicky who took up the position on the right side which was the side the Bayern goal eventually came from. Not before Robben’s efforts to con referee Svein Oddvar Moen in the penalty area were met with a shake of the head from the Norwegian and the derision of the travelling Arsenal fans. Weaving into the box, the Dutch winger flung himself to ground when he came together with Santi Cazorla.
On 57 minutes, Bayern took the lead with Cazorla losing track of Schweinsteiger in the area when Ribery crossed and the Arsenal midfielder was unable to prevent the midfielder from completing the relatively simple task of scoring from close range. It looked at that moment as if it would be time for Arsenal to accept that their Champions League journey had ended but they scored an equaliser within three minutes.
That came from Podolski, the former Bayern man, who chased Philipp Lahm down the right, gave him a shove in the back and stopped to wait for the foul to be given. When Moen failed to do so, he took a touch and struck a brilliant quick-rising shot with his left foot past Neuer and into the roof of the Bayern net.
Enraged, the German side came at Arsenal again. Kroos replaced Gotze. Mandzukic had a chance to score with 20 minutes remaining but failed to squeeze the ball past Fabianski, who had risen to the task well. They took control of the game and Robben finally got his penalty with a clumsy challenge from Koscielny at the end of the game. That Fabianski was equal to the double-save was the smallest of consolations on another humbling night.
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Lahm, Martinez, Dante, Alaba; Schweinsteiger, Thiago; Robben, Gotze, Ribery; Mandzukic.
Subs: Kroos/Gotze 59, Ribery/Muller 85
Arsenal (4-1-4-1): Fabianski; Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen; Ozil, Arteta Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski; Giroud.
Subs: Rosicky/Ozil ht, Gnabry/Arteta 77, Flamini/Oxlade-Chamberlain 84
Booked: Bayern Munich Dante, Martinez Arsenal Podolski, Arteta, Vermaelen
Man of the match: Ribery
Ox Rues Arsenal exit
Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was disappointed after his side were knocked out of the Champions League following a 1-1 draw on the night and a 3-1 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich.
Bastian Schweinsteiger was on target for Bayern 10 minutes after the break as he collected Franck Ribery's cross to fire home a close-range effort for his first goal since October.
Lukas Podolski hit back for the visitors two minutes later, taking on the Bayern defence and beating the outstretching Manuel Neuer as he drilled his shot home from a narrow angle.
Laurent Koscielny brought down Arjen Robben in the box after a tussle as the game approached full-time, but Thomas Muller's penalty was held out by the feet of Lukasz Fabianski before the ball spun just in front of the line, with the Arsenal goalkeeper making it safe seconds later.
By that stage, though, Arsenal's hopes of reaching the quarter-finals were bleak.
Oxlade-Chamberlain told ITV: "In the first game, losing 2-0 at home (meant it) was never going to be an easy task coming here. We went down to 10 men at the Emirates (after goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was sent off) and up until that point we were doing really well and it was an uphill climb.
"On the day - 2-0 - it wasn't the best result for us and we knew we had the chance to come here tonight and give it our all and try to come away with a result."
Bayern looked the most likely to break the deadlock in the first half, but after the Gunners struck back, Oxlade-Chamberlain believed the visitors were still in with a chance.
He added: "Bayern are always going to have weaknesses, just like any other team, and when you score a goal it puts anyone under pressure and (makes) anyone a little bit nervous.
"So we knew we needed something like that to make them uneasy and obviously when we did that we thought we had a chance and it wasn't to be in the end."
The reigning European champions held a two-goal advantage heading into this last-16 second leg clash, after goals from Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller gave them victory at the Emirates Stadium nearly three weeks ago.
And England international Oxlade-Chamberlain admitted the Gunners were unable to finish of their chances at the Allianz Arena but was proud they put in a good performance against the holders with a draw on the night.
The 20-year-old said: "Maybe we lacked a bit of quality with our final ball. I thought we got into a lot of dangerous positions we just lacked to find that final cutting-edge ball tonight and at the top level you need to be able to do that - especially against a team like Bayern.
"Maybe tonight we were just lacking that, but the boys put in a great shift tonight and we can take away positives and be proud of our effort today."
He added of Pep Guardiola's Bundesliga leaders: "They're definitely up there as one of the best teams, there's still a lot of other good teams in the tournament.
"They've got some great players, world-class players and we wish them all the best now."
Belfast Telegraph Digital