Bayern Munich – The Last 16

German goalkeeper Manuel NeuerWith an unassailable 17 point lead at the top of the Bundesliga Bayern went into their Last 16 first leg at Arsenal full of confidence. Just how confident blew the Gunners away and all but ended Arsene Wenger`s Champions` League dream for yet another campaign.

It was one of those nights were it began badly, and got rapidly worse. There were only seven minutes on the clock when Tony Kroos fired home a superb volley while Arsenal players were still digesting their manager`s game plan. Still mulling, the Arsenal players that is, Thomas Muller gave the home team more food for thought when he poked home a second before the midway point of the first half.

Had Mandzukic not missed the best chance of all before the interval it could have been 0-3 and goodnight Bavaria, Wembley et al for all Gooners. As it happened, 10 minutes after the restart, came the sort of incident that had all Bayern supporters crying into their Schnapps.

The ball went out behind the goal, after striking Podolski on the back. Despite the presence of another chocolate tea-pot, or the 5th official or whatever those officials are called, Arsenal were awarded a most generous corner kick. When the ball was swung into the danger area, who else but former Bayern player Podolski, was on hand to turn the ball in and put a more than generous spin on a game where there was more than 2-1 between the sides. Bayern were a bit miffed considering that goal not only gave Arsenal a lifeline that was undeserved but it ended a Munich record, stretching back over a year, and 664 minutes to be precise, of not having conceded.

However Mario Mandzukic made amends for his first half miss when he put a more accurate slant on Bayern`s dominance at the Emirates with a goal 13 minutes from time that would require the mother of all comebacks in Munich`s second leg.

The most striking feature of Bayern`s triumph in North London was the fact they were so much technically better than Arsenal and far more organised and that did not auger well for the return leg.

As the snow fell on a cold Bavarian evening there was nothing flaky about the Arsenal performance that, with hindsight turned their season around although the glorious failure in Munich was just that.

`Get an early goal` is what Herr Wenger must have told his players and that`s exactly what they did. In the third minute Theo Walcott, playing like the player everyone knows he can be, whipped the ball into the six-yard box for Olivier Giroud to sweep home. Just 3-2 down on aggregate and one of Munich`s away goals cancelled out.

Plenty of time left thought the travelling Gooners. Yes, but despite a spirited display Arsenal did not achieve aggregate parity until four minutes from time when Koscielny headed in from a corner. But time was up for Arsenal and despite the fact they exited Europe on the away goals rule the result and display amidst the Bavarian snow ultimately set the team on a domestic run that saw them clinch another tilt at the Champions` League for a 17th consecutive season.

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