Bayern Munich seized control of their Champions League last 16 tie against Arsenal as goals from Toni Kroos, Thomas Mueller and Mario Mandzukic earned the German giants an emphatic 3-1 first leg win at the Emirates on Tuesday. By Martyn Herman.
A clinical early strike from Kroos opened the scoring and when Mueller made it 2-0 midway through the first half the visiting fans were already in party mood.
Lukas Podolski scored against his old club as Arsenal battled back after the break but Mandzukic bundled in a third Bayern goal in the 77th to seal their first ever win in London.
The runaway Bundesliga leaders, trying to make amends for a heartbreaking shootout loss to Chelsea in last year’s final, toyed with Arsenal for 45 minutes and, though given a real scrap after that, are overwhelming favourites to reach the last eight.
“We improved again compared to last year. Tonight we made a very big step towards the quarter finals,” Bayern’s Netherlands international winger Arjen Robben told Sky Sports.
Arsenal’s under-fire manager Arsene Wenger added: “Let’s not hide the truth, it will be difficult but we’ll try to make the impossible possible. We have to go there and play like we play at home and try to change the score.”
“Our fans were fantastic tonight. I’m very disappointed that we couldn’t give them the win they wanted,” said the Frenchman whose side were booed off the pitch for the second match in a row following their weekend FA Cup defeat by Blackburn Rovers.
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, asked about the defeat amid criticism of Wenger by some fans and the media told ITV: “I don’t think it’s anything to do with the manager. It’s up to us on the pitch. He’s done a great job over 16 years here.”
Arsenal began positively with Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott advancing deep into Bayern territory but it took the visitors only seven minutes to stop the Gunners in their tracks.
Mueller, a constant menace down the right flank, was allowed time to cross and his scuffed delivery wrong-footed Arsenal’s defence and fell perfectly for Kroos to swivel and thump a first-time shot into the turf and past keeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Oozing confidence after an 18-match unbeaten sequence dating back to October, Bayern sensed Arsenal’s confidence was fragile and went about hammering home their superiority.
It was no surprise when the Germans doubled their advantage after 21 minutes when Daniel Van Buyten’s glancing header from a corner was blocked on the line by Szczesny but the ball popped up for Mueller to flick it into the unguarded net.
Bayern looked capable of putting the tie to bed before halftime and almost did so moments before the break when Mandzukic rose majestically to meet Philipp Lahm’s cross but placed his powerful header agonisingly wide.
Arsenal’s frustration resulted in first-half bookings for Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta while Bayern’s Bastian Schweinsteiger was yellow-carded for kicking the ball away and will be ruled out of the return leg in Bavaria.
Schweinsteiger’s moment of ill-discipline looked irrelevant with his side so dominant but the hosts responded after the interval to try to make the second leg more than a formality.
Ten minutes into the second half, a corner from Wilshere found Arsenal’s former Bayern forward Lukas Podolski unmarked and he gratefully nodded past keeper Manuel Neuer.
It was the first goal conceded by Bayern this year and rattled the visitors as the home crowd sensed that maybe all was not lost amid memories of Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Barcelona in 2010 when they also trailed 2-0.
Arsenal substitute Olivier Giroud nearly equalised with his first touch after joining the fray with 20 minutes left but his sweetly-struck shot from Walcott’s cross went straight at Neuer.
The revival was cut short after 77 minutes when Bayern counter-attacked in devastating fashion and Lahm’s skidding cross spun up and in off Bayern’s Croatia striker Mandzukic.
Arsenal huffed and puffed looking for another reply but Bayern were better in every department and Wenger’s dejected team left the pitch with boos again ringing in their ears as their season threatened to completely unravel. DM
Photo: Bayern Munich fans cheer before their Champions League soccer match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in London February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
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