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Bayern showed once again why they are team to beat in Europe

By Steven Beacom

No miracle for Arsenal then. Come on, you didn't really expect one, did you?

They were up against Bayern Munich after all... the best club side in the world right now.

Brilliant last season when they won the Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League under the experienced Jupp Heynckes, they are even stronger with perfectionist Pep Guardiola at the helm.

Arsene Wenger, as he had to, spoke about completing a heroic comeback ahead of trying to overturn a two goal deficit for the second year in a row against Bayern, but I fancy even the most optimistic Gooners knew that it was mission impossible.

Once Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was red carded in the first leg of this last 16 Champions League tie at the Emirates, the contest was decided.

In north London last month Bayern Munich's professionalism, patience and poise put them in control with a 2-0 victory and last night in the Allianz Arena, although far from their bewildering best, they finished the job, drawing 1-1 to triumph 3-1 on aggregate.

Munich may have had a few uncomfortable moments after Arsenal scored in the second half through Lukas Podolski, but there was never any doubt that the German outfit would blow their lead.

With plenty to spare Guardiola's classy team progressed to the quarter-finals of the competition they won in 2013. En route to that success Bayern beat the Gunners on away goals, despite losing 2-0 at home to Wenger's side, and having overcome Arsenal again there will be confidence in the Munich ranks that they can go on and become the first side to retain the Champions League.

They are the team to beat in the competition and will play much better than they did last night in their European games to come.

For Arsenal though another adventure on the continent is over without success.

Nothing new there.

Even the great teams built by Wenger failed to lift this trophy.

At least though, with the excellent Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain leading the charge, they showed some heart and didn't capitulate in Munich when Bastian Schweinsteiger opened the scoring on 55 minutes.

Two minutes later Arsenal were level with Podolski smashing a rocket of a left foot shot into the roof of the net. He may have fouled Philipp Lahm seconds before, but you play to the whistle. The referee missed the push, German international striker Podolski didn't miss the target.

At that stage with over a third of the game left, some of the travelling support may have allowed themselves to dream, but a glorious never to be forgotten victory was not going to become a reality even if Bayern's defence wobbled a little.

By the closing stages Guardiola's men had again exerted control and but for a poor injury time penalty from Thomas Muller saved by Lukasz Fabianski, they would have won on the night.

Not embarrassed on the pitch, there were red faces off it when Wenger could only name SIX instead of the usual seven substitutes with Ryo Miyaichi, originally supposed to be on the bench, left off it because he was not registered to play. It brought to mind Irish League registration cock-ups over the years. At least Arsenal caught it on, but even so... how ridiculous is that? Didn't they check before the bloke got on the plane?

Now Arsenal are left to focus on the Premier League and FA Cup. They won't win the former but should win the latter. If they don't, Wenger will face some major questions for not ending the silverware drought which has been ongoing since 2005.

Belfast Telegraph


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