Bayern stumble through after 2-0 defeat

The German press this week has spoken of respect and confidence; of anticipation and wariness; of expectation and fear. The reality of potentially not making the next stage of a competition they have been desperate to win for the last three years was more an itch than an epidemic worry but those selected in the starting eleven were trusted with the burden of completing the task.

An early goal they said. That was the only hope they said. Well, that's exactly what they got. Bayern afforded the away side an uncharacteristic amount of space on the right flank and, after a slip from David Alaba, Theo Walcott's cross-cum-shot was slammed home by Olivier Giroud. That same sound that echoed eerily around the Allianz last weekend had returned. Scoring early was Arsenal's only opportunity back into the match; it also presented Bayern fans with arguably their only form of anxiety.

Bayern just needed some time to settle. Luiz Gustavo nearly equalised but his side-footed half volley flew just over the bar. Wenger lamented the fact his side had lost their early width as Dante's distribution from the centre of defence started to excel. Arsenal's greatest threat remained on the counter and on the right with Theo Walcott, Giroud failed to get a touch on his cross just after the half-hour mark.

Both sides got sloppy as the first half wound down, with passes being lazily misplaced. Bayern were also notably reluctant to shoot and the absence of Ribery was a problem. The general consensus during the interval was that an early goal in the second half for the away side would make Bayern nervous. Yet the home side came out blaring, almost with a point to prove after a rather flat first forty-five. Robben fired just wide before Kroos did the same.

Mueller tested Fabianski and, as he managed to do all evening, the Pole stood firm. It was, as it had been for large parts of the first half, a fairly mediocre affair. Neither side was as fluid as they normally were and both the passing in the final third, as well as the shooting, was poor.

Even with that lack of sharpness, it was Bayern who had the edge as Arsenal lacked urgency after the break. When Robben did finally take a shot at goal, Fabianski made another excellent stop with the Dutchman bearing down on goal.

When Wenger played his hand with just under 20 minutes to go, Bayern still looked the more likely to score. Then, as the ten-minute countdown drew ever closer, Arsenal went for it. Giroud was presented with a great chance in the box but chose to pass rather than shoot, which allowed Bayern the chance to clear. Minutes later, Gervinho turned in the box to trickle the ball agonisingly wide of both Manuel Neuer and his left-hand post.

Fabianski proved his worth with yet another important stop before time started to slip away from Arsenal. With only five minutes left, Koscielny rose highest from a corner to smash in a second, unanswered goal. Bayern responded nervously and with a little less professionalism than normal, Manuel Neuer looking particularly foolish in his attempts to hold onto the ball.

The last three minutes of stoppage time were tense. Bayern were keen to see the game out, while Arsenal were wishing they hadn't left it so late. Alas, there was to be no late drama as Wenger's men realised their valiant effort had come too late, leaving Bayern to progress on away goals.

The 2-0 victory on the night should not deter Arsenal fans from a fantastic achievement though. As captain Mikel Arteta said, it was a performance to be "proud of against one of the best teams in Europe." This is a Bayern side who have only been beaten by BATE Borisov and Bayer Leverkusen all season and those are distant memories. Their first leg proved enough to progress but this defeat to Arsenal will be a wake-up call to Heynckes, his players and the rest of Europe even if it was "a deserved victory."

After tonight, maybe Bayer Leverkusen are not the best side for Bayern to be facing next weekend but that cannot be changed. There will be even more of a marked interest in the performance that Bayern produce in that game, let alone the outcome.

FC Bayern München: Neuer - Lahm, van Buyten, Dante, Alaba - Javi Martinez, Luiz Gustavo - Mueller, Kroos (80' Tymoshchuk), Robben - Mandzukic (73' Gomez)

FC Arsenal: Fabianski - Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs - Arteta, Ramsey (72' Gervinho) - Cazorla, Rosicky, Walcott (72' Oxlade-Chamberlain) - Giroud

Goals: 0-1 Giroud (4'), 0-2 Koscielny (85')

Attendance: 68,000
Referee: Pavel Kralovec

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