Bayern Munich’s winning powerplay exposes familiar frailties as they blast Arsenal out of the Champions League 5-1 on a grim night at the Allianz Arena
21:41 15 February 2017
Bayern Munich provided a masterclass in powerful, winning football as four second half goals blasted Arsenal away after Alexis Sanchez equalised to make it 1-1 at half time.
Sanchez provided a rare moment of skill – and hope – after he struck the Gunners goal here on a dramatic night in Germany after the Chilean initially missed a penalty.
He followed up with an air kick, as the ball looked to be heading to safety – before he chested it down, swivelled and shot past Manuel Neur.
Yet, in truth Carlo Ancelotti’s team were far superior in their attacking endeavours as former Chelsea man Arjen Robben hit a curling left foot shot past a despairing David Ospina – starting ahead of Petr Cech as confirmed by Wenger who also started with Granit Xhaka in place of substitute Theo Walcott.
As the teams went into the break at 1-1 Arsenal felt the momentum was with them.
But that was before three goals in the space of nine minutes cruelly dashed their hopes – and with their chance of keeping the tie alive as a contest – as Robert Lewandoswki, and a pair from Thiago sealed the game.
With substitute Thomas Muller finding time to make it five – and end Arsenal’s run in this season’s Champions League with the embarrassment of the second leg still to come.
As around 3,000 Gooners gathered high up in the gods here at the imposing state-of-the-art Allianz Arena before kick off their passion was palpable. They not only made themselves heard above the booming home fans – but the dreadful Euro-pop dirges blasting out of the PA.
But as the whistle approached all eyes were on the players. Would they finally give a European performance worthy of their talent?
Unfortunately we were soon to find out as the atmosphere generated by both sets of fans crackled.
Arturo Vidal soon tested Ospina with a low shot from outside the area but the Columbian was alert to the danger and saved comfortably.
However on 10 minutes Arjen Robben picked out the ball on the right. Sensing he had space to exploit he cut inside and fired off a cracking curling left foot shot that evaded Opsina’s despairing dive to end up high to his right – and into the roof of the net to make it 1-0 to Bayern.
It was a goal that was easy on the eye – but raised defensive questions, not least the fact the Gunners backline was slow to react to the Dutchman cutting inside and shifting onto his left.
And if so why? It was a goal that although was satisfying to watch from a neutrals’ perspective – but could so easily have been cut out by a defensive line being alert to the former Chelsea player’s propensity to use his left foot.
However, minutes later Alexis Sanchez powered down the right flank, his surging run only ended after he was fouled right on the edge of the box.
Mesut Ozil fired the subsequent free kick low at Neuer. It looked to be an easy gather but he fumbled it. The ensuing scramble saw the ball narrowly dribble past his post – but it was a warning Arsenal were intent on showing they were not prepared to go down without a fight.
It was a warning Bayern failed to heed moments later as they were awarded a penalty – much to the home side and their fans’ fury.
What followed showed why Arsenal fans believe they are put through the wringer more than most.
Neuer managed to save the Chilean’s rather tame effort and the stadium erupted with joy. His follow-up attempt was an air shot with the ball looked to be heading away from the goal and to safety.
Yet the tricky South America – showing his street-football skills somehow chested the ball before swivelling and hooking a foot around the ball, striking the ball into the ground and past Neuer’s right hand and into the goal.
The momentary silence in the ground captured the shock of his efforts making it 1-1 with both sets of fans disbelieving of what had happened – before the travelling Arsenal fans erupted with joy at the strike – as Wenger’s men grabbed a vital away goal.
Robert Lewandowski hitherto quiet – by his high standards at any rate – had a chance to equalise with a header when well-placed in the box. But his radar was slightly awry and his header went wide – as did his chance in a crowded box just before half time as he just failed to get onto the end of a curling free kick into the box.
But as the Serbian referee Milorad Mazic blew for half time the Gunners proved to the home crowd and the wider watching world they had the necessary courage to compete.
The second half started with Bayern blitzing Arsenal with three early goals – completely altering the shape and momentum of the tie in minutes.
First Lewandowski beat a static Shkodran Mustafi on 53 minutes with a leap to nod the ball past Ospina to make it 2-1 – dashing any hopes of a bright start to the second half for the visitors.
Three minutes later a sublime Lewandowski backheel played in the Brazilian Thiago who slotted past Ospina with a cool finish.
Then on 62 minutes, with Arsenal reeling, Thiago grabbed a second, shooting through a forest of legs – as the ball took a slight deflection to wrong foot Ospina, making it 4-1.
It was a brutal example of Bayern’s explosive tendencies as they simply blew Arsenal away with their power, intensity, technique and intent.
It was absorbing to watch but a cruel indication of gulf between sides. Again.
With substitute Muller still finding time to make it 5-1 it was clear Arsenal had been bundled out of the Champions League in the round of 16 stage once more.
The recriminations can wait as the events of a grim night in Arsenal’s history sinks in.
Neuer, Hummels, Alcantara, Martinez, Lewandowski (Muller), Robben (Rafinha), Costa (Kimmich), Alonso, Lahm, Vidal, Alaba
Ospina, Gibbs, Koscielny (Gabriel), Sanchez, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi (Walcott), Mustafi, Bellerin, Xhaka, Coquelin (Giroud)