The last time Arsenal and Bayern Munich met each other in the Champions League, Arsenal came in on a bit of a lull in Premier League play and were soundly beaten 3-1 by the eventual 2013 champions. This time, it seemed that history had repeated itself for the Gunners with a 5-1 loss February 8 to Liverpool and a 0-0 draw four days later to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Although the initial effort was slightly better, the result was eventually the same as Arsenal lost 2-0 to Bayern Munich on the heels of a dominating second half by Bayern.
The match started out with a bang by both sides. Arsenal got things going as Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain tried a charge within the first minute of the match that was quickly squashed by the Bayern Munich defense. The defending champions from Germany mounted their own challenge a minute later with a nice looking shot to the corner of the net by midfielder Toni Kroos that was barely batted by the right hand of the Arsenal keeper Wojiech Szczesny. The home side from London mounted a couple of fine-looking chances minutes later by Santi Cazorla and Yaya Sanogo. Sanogo was a late call-up to the match at the forward slot.
The offensive push started to create some cracks in the Bundesliga leaders. Defender Jerome Boateng was the recipient of a badly timed yellow card due to a tackle in the box of Arsenal forward Mesut Ozil, which led to a penalty kick for the Gunners. But they were unable to capitalize as Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer was able to get a hand on the low-lying shot. From there, the action began to settle down for the remainder of the opening third of the match as the defense on both sides were steady and kept offensive opportunities at a fair minimum.
Chamberlain, in the 23rd minute, took in a high-arcing feed from that was batted away by Neuer for a corner. On the other side five minutes later, Bayern forward Mario Mandzukic had a header blocked in the middle of the box by Sanogo for a corner.
In the 37th minute, things started to go sour for the home side. Keper Szczesny was sent off for a red card on what was a rough tackle on Bayern striker Arjen Robben. He was replaced by Lukasz Fabianski as Santi Cazorla was sent off the midfield pitch for Arsenal. But the visitors from Germany were unable to capitalize on the resulting penalty shot as forward Phillip Lahm’s shot ringed off the left post, re-energizing the crowd at the Emirates. The team was able to ride the energy defensively, keeping the score 0-0 at halftime.
As the second half began, Bayern Munich made their first substitution of the match, taking out Jerome Boateng and putting in defender Rafinha. The change led to an early chance from the visitors that was immediately snuffed out by the Arsenal defense. The defense was able to keep the defending champions from Munich at bay through the early part of the second half. Even generating a free kick near the 51st minute that led to a chance from forward Laurent Koscielny that was effortlessly gobbled up by the Bayern keeper.
It wasn’t long after that the visitors charged forward with their own scoring opportunity. Arjen Robben, at the 53rd minute, was able to gather a small piece of real estate near the edge of the right side of the box that was gathered up by Fabianski. Moments later, however, they were able to cash in for the first goal of the match. Rafinha calmly fed Kroos who was waiting near the edge of the penalty area and, unlike his shot earlier in the match, he connected with a shot that sailed above the keeper Fabianski to the top of the net to make it 1-0 for the Bundesliga leaders.
The goal and 2-0 advantage signaled the sense of domination by the visiting side over Arsenal that had been building since the beginning of the second half. At the two-third mark of the match, they held possession 78 percent of the time compared to 22 percent for the homes side Arsenal. Bayern coach Jose Guardiola subbed Madzudic in the 65th minute for midfielder Thomas Müller. He had tallied 3 goals and an assist prior to his inclusion in the match. The Gunners were able initially to keep the visiting side from tallying the second goal as the match neared the closing stages, despite a very close chance off the boot of Robben that sailed to the right as well as a header from Mario Götze that went wide.
Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger made his last change of the match, bringing in Thomas Rosicky and taking out Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain in the 65th minute. Guardiola countered with his final substitution, bringing in forward Claudio Pizzarro and taking out Thiago Alcantara. As the match entered its final ten, the feeling started to set in that the home side was actively working to keep the deficit over Bayern at 1-0.
Despite the valiant effort the Gunners had mounted for most of the match, however, Bayern were able to get the all-important second goal in the 87th minute. Pizarro utilized a lovely ball in the penalty area where Müller, taking advantage of a defensive miscues from midfielder Mathieu Flamini that put Bayern up 2-0 over Arsenal which was the final at the horn.
The second leg of the match will be on March 11 from the Fußball Arena in Munich. Last year in the Champions League, Arsenal was able to wrestle a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich, although they still were eliminated by aggregate. Today’s 2-0 loss to Bayern will be as equally difficult for Arsenal to overcome in the next leg, especially given the defending champions’ dominating second half.
By Brian Ault