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Another win in London

FCB ‘well-placed’ but ‘not through yet’

A 3-1 win at Arsenal in last season’s Round of 16. The 2-1 triumph in the final against Dortmund. And now a 2-0 success, again in the last sixteen, away to the Gunners. Whenever chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge gives his traditional speech at the post-match banquets in London, he has every reason to sing the praises of the FCB first team. It was the same procedure in the Grand Ballroom at the Landmark Hotel on Wednesday night when Bayern celebrated taking an important step towards the Champions League quarter-finals.

“There is the great saying: Football’s coming home. We can now say: Bayern are coming home,” declared Rummenigge after the “convincing and deserved” win at Arsenal that sees the Club World Champions taking “a big step towards the quarter-finals.” It was also Munich’s seventh Champions League away win in succession, equalling the record set by Ajax Amsterdam (1995-1997).

Bayern had their hands full dealing with Arsenal at the start and were thrown into confusion on several occasions early on. “It was an tight, closely-fought game as I thought it would be,” said FCB president Uli Hoeneß, who looked on as his pre-match the prediction was confirmed. He also watched as Manuel Neuer stood up to a barrage of shots in the opening minutes, including the highlight of a brilliant save from Mesut Özil’s penalty.

Overwhelming dominance

“The penalty save kept us in it,” noted Hoeneß, “and the sending off just before half time obviously led to us dominating the game.” That view was shared by Pep Guardiola who saw ”a completely different game” after Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny was red-carded for fouling Arjen Robben. That did not change even after David Alaba hit the upright with his spot kick.

Bayern dominance was overwhelming by the end. Fully 78.8 percent of the possession and a pass completion of 94.6 percent, the highest figure since those stats have been compiled, reflected the way the treble winners penned in the hosts. The visitors were rewarded with a Toni Kroos goal just after the start of the second half.

“The second half was rather boring for the supporters,” admitted Arsene Wenger who described the encounter as “a high quality game” up to the sending off. The travelling Bayern fans were certainly able to enjoy their team’s superior performance in the second half. The Reds launched attack after attack on the Arsenal goal, with the home team restricted to playing on the break, before Thomas Müller netted the crucial second goal in the closing stages, Curiously enough, Kroos and Müller made it 1-0 and 2-0 in the corresponding fixture exactly a year ago.

Warning ahead of second leg

“We waited patiently for our chances,” declared Guardiola, praising the players who handed him his first win as a coach against Arsenal. “The only downside was the first 15 minutes,” where Arsenal were “incredible”. Arjen Robben also mentioned the “not so good” start in his assessment of a hard night’s work that ended with a “great result.” Philipp Lahm, the provider of two assists, said the Bavarians could be “satisfied” with the result.

There was no sense of euphoria in the ballroom at the Landmark. “It’s not all over,” cautioned Robben. Jérôme Boateng warned: “Last season’s 2-0 win [for Arsenal in Munich] says it all. We aren’t through yet.” Rummenigge feels FCB are in a “good position for the return,” while at the same time demanding “a touch of humility in the Champions League - exactly the same as last year.” One thing is certain: if everything goes to plan on 11 March, Rummenigge can look forward to making his speech at the next Champions League banquet in April. Perhaps in London again.