By Richard Clarke at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal have it all to do in Munich on March 13 in order to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
Arsène Wenger’s side were beaten 3-1 by Bayern on Tuesday night at Emirates Stadium in the first leg of this last-16 tie.
The German side scored twice in an excellent opening 21 minutes through Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller.
Arsenal did well to wrestle back control of the game and Lukas Podolski reduced the deficit 10 minutes after the restart.
The home side pressed hard for an equaliser but the closest they came was when Olivier Giroud’s drive bounced back off keeper Manuel Neuer.
A couple of minutes later, Mario Mandzukic looped home a somewhat fortuitous third for the visitors.
As good as Bayern had been, that strike was hard on Arsenal, who battled manfully for little reward.
The goal makes their task in Germany much more difficult in three weeks’ time. But Arsenal must go to Bavaria with the belief that they can turn this tie around.
Before kick-off, Wenger had named a much-changed side.
Theo Walcott was up front while Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere made for a combative trio in central midfield. Podolski and Santi Cazorla were on the flanks. Bacary Sagna returned at right back.
Bayern had been beaten in last season’s final, perhaps unfortunately, and they had got better since then.
They arrived with a host of dazzling statistics to support the assertion that they were Europe’s best team at the moment.
In the first half, they would add further evidence to the argument.
Their early goal actually came against the grain of first seven minutes – but it was clinical when it arrived.
Walcott and Cazorla had broken brightly as the home side tried to impose themselves.
However Bayern’s first real opportunity saw Muller whip in a cross from the right. It was inches away from the stretching Ramsey and Kross met the ball with a crisp finish from the edge of the area.
The goal was exactly what Arsenal did not want and, understandably, they went 'safety first' in response.
However Bayern were not prepared to take a backward step. They went for a second and soon got it.
The genesis of the goal came from Franck Ribery’s sumptuous pass from the left flank to the right which found Philipp Lahm in full flow.
His cross was blocked for a corner. Kross swung it to the near post where Daniel van Buyten rose above the Arsenal defence to power in a header.
Wojciech Szczesny beat it away but Muller poked the ball home from close range.
Emirates was shaken. The first goal had been a body blow and the second had followed quickly in its wake.
Arsenal needed to shore up the game before they ventured forward and they rolled up their sleeves for the next quarter-hour.
In the 34th minute, Wilshere lofted a free-kick into the area and the ball eventually fell to Mertesacker, whose snap-shot was blocked.
Arsenal ended the half having built up a modicum of pressure on the Bayern goal. But they were nearly caught out in the final minute.
Again the move began down the right. Lahm’s super cross was nodded inches wide by Mandzukic.
The Emirates crowd chanted “come on Arsenal” with gusto as their team left the field at the break.
The tie was only a quarter gone and already seemed like a long way back but everyone with a red-and-white heart had to believe.
It was the first away goal Bayern had conceded in exactly 10 hours, eight minutes of competitive football
And the believers would soon get their reward.
The second half began like the first half had ended, even and open.
Arsenal needed the crutch of an early goal and it came in the 55th minute.
Wilshere’s corner found a path through the Bayern area and enticed Neuer forward. However the keeper missed it, allowing Podolski to nod home the bouncing ball into an unguarded net.
It was the first away goal Bayern had conceded in exactly 10 hours, eight minutes of competitive football.
The strike stung Bayern into greater offensive action. Kroos’ climbing shot forced Szczesny to tip over at the near post and, from the corner, Javi Martinez nodded just inches over.
But Arsenal now fancied their chances of an equaliser and they would come close to finding it.
First through Podolski’s low cross-shot and then, in the 73rd minute, Walcott’s right-wing cross found Giroud, who had just come on.
The Frenchman’s connection was sure and his shot had power. It hit the legs of an unwitting Neuer and bounced away.
It was the type of moment where Arsenal needed a dash of fortune. A point that was brought into sharp focus four minutes later by the manner of Bayern’s third.
Substitute Arjen Robben fed Lahm down the right. His low cross was met by both Sagna and Mandzukic racing towards the far post.
Neither made a positive connection but the ball looped high and dropped into the net before the backtracking Szczesny could scoop it away.
As good as Bayern had been, fine margins had accentuated the scoreline
It might have been worse shortly afterwards when Luiz Gustavo’s deflected shot nearly wrong-footed Szczesny. The keeper saved and Mario Gomez planted the rebound over the bar.
The end of the game was muted. Bayern had a very handy lead, Arsenal wanted to prevent further damage.
The home crowd stuck with their team and, sportingly, clapped Bayern off the pitch afterwards.
The German side had lived up to their exalted reputation around Europe on a disappointing night for Arsenal.
But it is only half-time and so, as the excellent Wilshere said in his TV interview afterwards...
"This tie is not over yet."
- Vermaelen Yellow Card
- Sagna Yellow Card
- Ramsey 71 Yellow Card
- Arteta Yellow Card
- Podolski 71 Goal! Yellow Card
- Rosicky 71
- Giroud 71
- Lahm Yellow Card
- Schweinsteiger Yellow Card
- Ribery 63
- Muller Goal! Yellow Card
- Kroos 74 Goal!
- Mandzukic 79 Goal!
- Gustavo 74
- Robben 63
- Gomez 79