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Arsenal 2 Bayern 0

Gunners condemn Bayern to first defeat of term

Following a run of 12 straight wins in all competitions, it was a case of unlucky 13 for Bayern as Pep Guardiola’s men fell to a first defeat of the 2015/16 campaign in Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Arsenal, an enthralling tactical battle between two quick and skilled sides settled by Olivier Giroud’s late strike and Mesut Özil’s stoppage-time goal.

The 59,911 capacity crowd at the Emirates Stadium saw the German champions utterly dominate the first half-hour and create several half-chances, but the Gunners rallied before the break and Bayern were indebted to Manuel Neuer for a stunning reflex save to prevent Theo Walcott opening the scoring. The sides cancelled each other out for long spells in the second half but Arsenal sub Giroud bundled home the opener after 77 minutes and Özil netted with the last kick of the match to seal a slightly flattering win for the Premier League side.

With Olympiacos beating Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 in the parallel fixture, the result from London means the Reds remain top of Group F on goal difference, level with the second-placed Greeks on six points and with the Gunners now only three behind. The Bavarians are back in action on Saturday in the Bundesliga clash with FC Köln at the Allianz Arena.

Costa in for Rafinha

Pep Guardiola made just a single change to the team that beat Bremen 1-0 at the weekend, with fit-again Douglas Costa taking over from Rafinha and captain Philipp Lahm reverting to right-back after appearing in midfield at the Weser Stadion.

Jan Kirchhoff, Javi Martinez, Kingsley Coman and Rafinha started in the dugout, and in the continuing absence of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, Mehdi Benatia, Sebastian Rode and Holger Badstuber, the bench also featured youngsters Gianluca Gaudino and Joshua Kimmich.

The visitors began with Neuer in goal behind a back four of Lahm, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba and Juan Bernat, with Xabi Alonso in the holding role, Thiago and Arturo Vidal in central midfield, and a front three comprising Thomas Müller, Costa and Robert Lewandowski.

Deadlocked at the break

Turkish referee Cüneyt Cakir had only just whistled the match underway on a fine and dry night in North London when Lewandowski gave notice of intent with a menacing dribble to within ten yards out, although the Pole scuffed his finish. But the first big chance fell to the home team when Mesut Özil drew an excellent save from Neuer and Walcott saw his follow-up blocked.

The visitors had settled after ten minutes, dominating possession and starting to create chances: Thiago squandered a golden opportunity in the 12th minute by firing too close to keeper Petr Cech, Alaba’s shot was deflected for a corner, Alonso floated a free-kick wide of the target, Cech stood his ground to save from Costa at the near post, and Lewandowski got underneath a left-footed effort.

Matters quietened down for a spell before Cech again saved well to deny Vidal on 28 minutes, with Thiago unable to get power on his follow-up effort, but the action switched to the other end on the half-hour with both Walcott and Alexis Sanchez shooting too high from decent positions.

Neuer then prevented his team falling behind with a phenomenal stop after 33 minutes, somehow keeping out Walcott’s powerful free header from Nacho Monreal’s cross, with Aaron Ramsey’s follow-up going wide. Bayern’s response to the Gunners’ best spell was a deflected Costa shot, but the teams turned round with a high-quality contest still scoreless.

Tense second half

The first chances of the second half fell to FCB with Costa blazing just over the bar and Cech finger-tipping Lewandowski’s drive away for a corner, Francis Coquelin replying with a swerving shot for the home team. Müller’s cross flew across the face of goal but caution prevailed in the minutes before and after the hour mark as the sides opted for risk-free football.

Alonso and Vidal gave way to Kimmich Rafinha with 20 minutes to go but Cech was Arsenal’s saviour in the 75th minute with a good save as Lewandowski finally found space and bore down on goal. Müller was only inches wide with an improvised shot on the turn straight from a throw-in, but matters turned sour for the Reds after 77 minutes when a free-kick evaded Neuer and substitute Giroud scrambled the ball over the line with his head and arm.

Neuer saved a header from the France striker as Arsene Wenger’s men looked to wrap it up, but Bayern launched a late offensive and Cech saved from Thiago, with Lewandowski shoved off the ball in the last desperate attack, although there was still time for Özil to force home the second on the break before the final whistle.

Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley

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