Arsenal rue red card as Bayern Munich take control
Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny sent off in the first half before Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller goals
Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben (left) just before he was taken down by Arsenal’s goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (right) in London. Photograph: Peter Kneffel/EPA
Arsenal 0 Bayern Munich 2
For Arsenal, it was a night with heavy consequences. Bayern Munich are formidable opponents at the best of times but, with an extra man, nobody could be surprised that this game ran away from Arsene Wenger’s side. They had given everything but there was an air of inevitability after Wojciech Szczesny was sent off and it will require something remarkable to prevent them from going out of the competition at this stage for the fourth year in succession.
If there is a glimmer of hope, it is that Wenger’s side won 2-0 in the Allianz Arena last season. Equally, it is unlikely Bayern will be as demob-happy as they were that night, already 3-1 up from the first leg. Pep Guardiola’s side have control of this tie, via second-half goals from Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller, on a night that will consume Wenger with regret.
More than anything, he will look back on what happened seven minutes from the end of a chaotic first half when Szczesny left his goal-line and brought down Arjen Robben for the turning point. Yet that was not the only moment that will fill Wenger with anguish. Arsenal had a penalty of their own after only eight minutes only for Mesut Özil to get it horribly wrong. David Alaba was equally careless with Bayern’s penalty but the extra man established Bayern in a position of strength and a team with this refinement were always likely to make their advantage count.
The red card incensed Wenger so much he could be seen remonstrating with Robben, the fouled player, as he came to the touchline for treatment.
Yet there was no doubt that Szczesny had chopped down Robben as he ran beyond Arsenal’s line of defence and applied the first touch to Kroos’s clever up-and-under. The issue was whether it was a clear opportunity to score. Robben did not seem to have the ball under control and, on that basis, the Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli should have deemed a yellow card was sufficient.
What followed was extraordinary, bearing in mind Özil had already demonstrated how not to take a penalty on an occasion of this significance.
Lukasz Fabianski, replacing the unfortunate Santi Cazorla, insisted on a touch of the ball before Alaba could take aim. With the substitution and all the recriminations, Alaba had been waiting a full two minutes before the penalty could be taken and perhaps that delay counted against the Bayern player. Usually so reliable, he aimed for Fabianski’s right-hand corner and managed only to skim the outside of the post.
The relief inside the Emirates was considerable but it was also accompanied by an overwhelming sense that this threatened to be the critical passage of the night. Arsenal had set off like a side that barely cared a jot for the fact their opponents are 16 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga. They were quick to the ball, slick with their passing and, at times, they had pinned Bayern back in the opening half an hour. Yet nobody could have expected them to continue in that manner once they had gone a man down. Bayern are simply too accomplished.
The unfortunate truth for Arsenal is that, at this level, a team cannot be as generous as Özil was in the eighth minute. Jack Wilshere had slipped the ball through Javi Martinez’s legs before threading the pass that sent Özil running into the penalty area. A beautifully executed check enticed the foul from Jerome Boateng but Ozil’s penalty was poor, to say the least. Manuel Neuer was wise to him and simply jutted out his right hand as Özil tried to play the ball through the middle.
Arsenal could at least be encouraged by the vast improvement in what happened when these sides last met here a year ago. Bayern had begun ominously, with Kroos firing in a peach of a shot, arrowing towards the top corner until Szczesny managed to claw it away, one-handed, from beneath his crossbar. Yet Arsenal’s response was illuminating.
Yaya Sanogo looked raw on a night when Wenger left out Olivier Giroud in favour of a 21-year-old who had started only one other match this season.
He almost justified his selection after only seven minutes, with Neuer demonstrating again what an outstanding goalkeeper he is. Robben was a constant menace and Bayern had more of the ball but Arsenal, with even numbers, were creating plenty of problems of their own. Szczesny’s red card changed the entire emphasis of the night.
At half-time Guardiola restored Philipp Lahm to midfield, with Rafinha going to right-back as a substitute for Boateng, and Martinez dropping into the centre of defence. Lahm immediately set about influencing the game and was prominently involved in the breakthrough. Kroos had been outstanding and, 20 yards from goal, applied just the right amount of bend to pick out the top corner.
It was a wonderful finish and Bayern should also have had a second penalty, after Laurent Koscielny’s trip on Müller, before the Bayern substitute doubled the German side’s lead.
Again, the outstanding Lahm was the creator, this time with a perfectly weighted cross. Muller’s header was placed into the corner and that, almost certainly, puts Arsenal on their way out of the competition.