Bayern 1 Arsenal 1: At Least, They Gave Their All…
Allianz Arena (Champions League)
Bayern: Schweinsteiger 54′ – Arsenal: Podolski 57′
It was always going to be like an uphill task but with the Gunners having nothing to lose, Arsene Wenger fielded what proved to be a very strong attacking side with the intent of springing a surprise at the home of the world and European champions. With Wojciech Szczesny suspended, Lukasz Fabianski deputized in goal but injuries to Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal saw the captain retain his place in the first team, albeit in the left back position. Elsewhere, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud returned to the starting XI as well.
According to the commentators, the Norwegian referee had overseen two victories for English sides on German soil as he was the match official in Chelsea’s away win at Schalke and Manchester United’s pummeling of Bayer Leverkusen.
Arsenal was quick out of the blocks with the Ox running at the Bayern defense and it took a cynical challenge from Dante to stop the raging Ox in his tracks. Podolski almost teed up Giroud with a cross but it was blocked. The resulting corner from Santi Cazorla was piss poor and Bayern used it as an opportunity to instigate a counter attacking move with saw David Alaba and Franck Ribery combine before his cross was fired over by Arjen Robben.
Thiago Alcantara lofted a free kick that was blasted in by Javi Martinez but the linesman’s flag spared Arsenal’s blushes. Bayern continued to launch waves of attacks with Alaba lashing a shot wide with his weaker right foot and shortly afterwards, Mario Mandzukic headed a cross over the bar.
At the start of the second half, Arsenal replaced the ineffectual Mesut Ozil with Tomas Rosicky. Ozil attempted only 12 passes in the first half and had a surprising 58% accuracy. His passing stats only bettered Fabianski’s 48% passing accuracy which was evidenced by his poor distribution all game long.
Mikel Arteta was lucky to remain on the pitch after he had clattered Ribery despite walking on thin ice from the yellow he received in the first half. Robben managed to get the better of Thomas Vermaelen but he attempted a blatant dive much to the disgust of everyone connected with Arsenal. Bayern’s penalty appeals fell on deaf ears as the ref signaled for the bald Dutch diver to get back up on his feet.
With Arsenal failing to take the initiative, Bayern broke the deadlock when Ribery threaded a neat through ball to an unmarked Bastian Schweinsteiger that caught Fabianski on his blind side. This goal drove the final nail in Arsenal’s qualification coffin.
Instead of sulking and putting their heads down for losing 3 – 0 on aggregate, the Gunners came firing on all cylinders with a swift attack as Podolski attempted a one-two with Giroud but the French striker’s return pass fell to Philip Lahm’s path. With Podolski determined to get the ball, he gave Lahm a nudge that made the full-back hit the deck like a sack of potatoes. After retrieving the ball in what seemed to be an impossible angle, Podolski blasted a thunderous shot with that hammer of his, leaving Manuel Neuer no chance in Hell.
The goal instilled some confidence into the away team and continued an onslaught in their bid to make their own version of history. Podolski had a cross blocked by Alaba but it fell to the Ox’s path but his tame shot was saved by Neuer. The German goalie received a simple back pass and his over-confidence made him concede possession immediately to the Gunners but Rosicky failed to capitalize on his error.
The Ox lost the ball in Arsenal’s danger area and after some neat passing play, Thiago fed an unmarked Mandzukic but his poor control allowed Fabianski to smother the ball. Robben was allowed to make a run and was allowed a shot at goal but Fabianski made another good save. With the Ox pulling up, he was replaced by Mathieu Flamini and shortly after that Serge Gnabry replaced Arteta that was one card away from making things very difficult for his team.
Cazorla sighted Gnabry on Alaba’s blind side and he dinked a ball for the young German but the Austrian was aware of the danger and he nodded the ball to safety. Podolski teed up Gnabry but the young bloke skied his effort. Late on, Robben was at it again as he was bundled over by Koscielny leaving the ref no choice but to point to the spot. Thomas Muller fired the ball through the middle but Fabianski’s trailing leg blocked the ball on the line.
With Muller determined to score a rebound, Fabianski showed off his bravery to push the ball away before he was tackled by the striker. That turned out to be the last noteworthy incident of the game and Arsenal’s Champions League adventure had ended on the knockout stage for the fourth season in a row.
All this wouldn’t have happened if the Gunners topped their group but there’s no point crying over spilled milk.
At least, they gave their all.
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