Created on 19-02-2014 at 22:36 PM
Bayern survived a torrid opening to Wednesday’s eventful Champions League Round of 16 first leg clash away to North London giants Arsenal, including an action-packed first half with two missed penalties and a sending-off, before dominating the second period and scoring two crucial away goals. The Gunners provided a different calibre of opposition to FCB’s recent domestic rivals, but the treble winners still had the quality to equal the current Champions League record of seven straight away wins in Europe’s elite club competition set by Ajax Amsterdam from 1995 to 1997.
The 59,911 crowd at the Emirates Stadium saw the Bundesliga leaders penned back at the start of the incident-filled first half, but Manuel Neuer saved Mesut Özil’s weak early penalty. Munich slowly but surely seized the upper hand and Arsenal were reduced to ten men when keeper Wojciech Szczesny was red carded for a foul on Arjen Robben in the box, but the game remained goalless at the break due to David Alaba missing the ensuing spot-kick. Pep Guardiola’s team upped the ante after the restart and took a 54th-minute lead through Toni Kroos, but despite the visitors’ utter control of proceedings, it took until the 88th minute before sub Thomas Müller headed the second.
The result puts Bayern firmly in the driving seat for the return at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday 11 March, where the Reds could even afford a narrow defeat and still make the quarter-finals. The Bavarians now return to the bread and butter of the Bundesliga on Sunday away to Hannover.
Five new faces for Pep
Guardiola made five changes to the team that brushed aside Freiburg 4-0 at the weekend with Jerome Boateng, Dabid Alaba, Thiago, Mario Götze and Mario Mandzukic restored to the starting line-up in place of Rafinha, Diego Contento, Müller, Claudio Pizarro and the injured Xherdan Shaqiri. Müller and Bastian Schweinsteiger took seats on the subs’ bench.
The holders started with captain Philipp Lahm resuming duty at right-back after a long spell in the holding role. Neuer, Boateng, Dante and Alaba completed the defensive unit, with Javi Martinez in the anchor position, Thiago and Kroos in the middle of the park, Robben and Götze out wide, and Mandzukic at centre-forward.
Gunners boss Arsène Wenger sprang a minor selection surprise by opting for young French talent Yaya Sanogo up front instead of seasoned fellow-countryman Olivier Giroud. Arsenal began with two Germany internationals in their line-up, stand-in skipper Per Mertesacker and schemer Özil, with ex-FCB man Lukas Podolski on the bench.
Missed penalty at either end
After Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli whistled the game underway on a mild evening in London, the action came thick and fast early on with the home side firmly on the front foot. Kroos did see the first chance of the match expertly palmed aside by home keeper Szczesny, but Neuer was soon performing heroics with fine saves from Sanogo and Spanish dangerman Santi Cazorla.
The Bayern number one then excelled himself in the eighth minute with a priceless save from Özil’s admittedly poorly-struck penalty after Boateng was adjudged to have brought down his international team-mate in the box. Robben hammered a free-kick into the wall and the rebound into the crowd as the visitors sought a way into it, before Mathieu Flamini blocked Alaba’s firm drive.
Wenger’s men came back at the holders, Flamini firing too high and Neuer racing from his line to clear from the speedy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. But the treble winners settled after half an hour and began to threaten in the final third. Robben’s shot was blocked, but the Dutchman did win a penalty on 37 minutes when Szczesny brought him down as he flicked a glorious Kroos reverse pass past the keeper. Mr Rizzoli had no option but to point to the spot and dismiss the Arsenal keeper, but his replacement and fellow Pole Lukasz Fabianski survived the ensuing penalty as Alaba planted his effort against the foot of the left-hand post.
Composed second period
Guardiola sent on Rafinha for Boateng at the start of the second half, with Lahm reverting to midfield and Martinez lining up alongside Dante in central defence. FCB saw most of the ball against the ten men in red, but Kroos shot straight at Fabianski and Rafinha had to stretch just too far to reach Kroos’ pass. Laurent Koscielny scuffed a shot straight at Neuer as Arsenal continued to look lively on the break, but Fabianski was in action again to save from Robben.
The holders were motoring now and took the lead on 54 minutes when Kroos finished off a lengthy and controlled passing move, curling a Lahm lay-off first time into the top corner of the net from 20 yards. Robben almost doubled the advantage from another Kroos dream pass in the 63rd minute but Fabianski made a top-class save, before Götze headed wide.
Müller replaced Mandzukic after 65 minutes and came up inches short of connecting with a Rafinha cross, Robben curled a shot just wide at the end of another slick passing phase and Götze’s diving header was deflected for a corner by Mertesacker, before Pizarro took over from Thiago for the last 12 minutes. Robben raced to the by-line but was crowded out, before Müller stooped to head the second goal two minutes from time from Lahm’s clipped cross. FCB still attacked but Götze’s shot was deflected wide and Kroos hit the post with a side-footed 18-yarder at the end.
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley