After two disappointing losses against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos in the Champions League, Arsenal put itself into a must-win situation to keep its hopes of qualification into the next round alive against arguably the best club in Europe, Bayern Munich. The two sides battled it out at the Emirates Stadium, home ground of Arsenal FC; with a group of the away fans entering the stadium 5 minutes late as a protest against the high ticket prices in England.
The home side kicked off but almost immediately found Robert Lewandowski dribbling away and through on goal, but couldn’t fire a shot, courtesy a last ditch intervention from Hector Bellerin. It was evident that the Bavarians began on the front foot as they were passing the ball around quite comfortably with their centre-backs at the half-line. But the first chance of the game fell for Mesut Ozil when the home team broke on the left wing and Alexis finding the German, who took a shot with his weaker foot, forcing Manuel Neuer into a finger-tip save towards his right; the rebound fired by Walcott was blocked by Lahm.
The North London club, then sat back and invited pressure from Bayern Munich, causing Thiao Alacantara play a wonderful one-two with Thomas Mueller on the right flank, and found himself in a wonderful position to score, only to be denied by Petr Cech with a wonderful reflex-like save. The Czech International was again called upon in the 27th minute to save an Arturo Vidal’s shot from right on the edge of the box.
The best chance of the half fell to the club from England, from the left wing yet again. Alexis Sanchez found an overlapping Nacho Monreal near the box and the Spaniard crossed into the box over three defenders finding Theo Walcott who head it onto the goal from 6 yards, but Manuel Neuer proved why he is the best Goalkeeper in the world with the save of the CL season by palming the shot away right off the line with a dive to the left. The rebound was shot right across goal from a yard by Aaron Ramsey.
Arsenal then shifted to a 4-4-2 with Alexis and Walcott playing upfront and the rest of the team defending. Bayern did look to exploit the tight space between the midfield and defence, but Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla were able to see the danger out, the latter more than once operated away from tight spaces and put up a matured display.
The second half started with Arsenal understanding the game better, not afraid to use a high-line when in possession and sitting back when not in possession, and effectively breaking on counters. But the London club had to deal with a huge blow at the 55th minute when Aaron Ramsey went down holding his right hamstring, which was later confirmed that the Welshman could be out for at least 3 weeks. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain replaced him on the field. On the 74th minute, Bayern latched on to a wasteful pass from Coquelin and began the counter at half line finding Douglas Costa in a 2 on 3, because of the high line with Lewandowski in his support. Costa then drawed Koscielny towards him leaving Lewandowski unmarked and put him through, then again, Petr Cech brilliantly blocked it and limited it to a corner. This would prove be a costly miss as Arsenal drew first blood 2 minutes later when Olivier Giroud, who was brought on for Theo Walcott 4 minutes ago, found the back of the net, courtesy a punching error by Manuel Neuer off a Santi Cazorla free kick. Giroud held off a defender and head cum shouldered the ball away on goal.
Arsenal then had a second chance when Giroud headed straight to Neuer off a corner and the first yellow card of the game was given to the Frenchman for obstructing Neuer from an immediate throw. In the injury time, Bayern Munich had an amazing opportunity to equalize when Lewandowski got the ball right outside the box and turned away from Koscielny and had a clear chance on goal. But the Frenchman tracked back and didn’t allow the Polish to take a short. More action was found on the away half as Bellerin passionately sprinted 20 yards to make an interception and ran around a defender and crossed a ball for Mesut Ozil in the box, who volleyed it onto goal, which Neuer stopped, but the fifth official confirmed the ball went in.
Arsenal pulled off, what was seen as a highly impossible task by the Pundits and proved yet again that they can change and adapt to a new style of game and draw results. They reiterated their strong mentality and concentration in games that matter. Ooh to be a Gooner!
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