Despite falling to a narrow loss against Bayern Munich, there was much to be proud of in the first leg of our Women’s Champions League quarter-final.
Bayern came into the tie on an impressive run of form, unbeaten since October 2022, and they certainly looked like a team brimming with confidence as they took the lead through Lea Schuller.
Despite a buoyant second-half display from our Gunners as we dug deep in search of an equaliser, a combination of missed chances, misfortune in front of goal, and 50-50 refereeing decisions meant that the hosts held onto their lead.
The hosts came out of the gate flying, with two shots in the first two minutes and smothering our midfield the second we regained possession.
After the initial flurry of intensity, we gradually settled into the Arsenal way. Caitlin Foord, who was spectacular throughout the opening 45, drove at the Bayern backline and unleashed a shot which struck Viggosdottir in the area. Despite multiple appeals for handball, the referee waved play on.
Foord was involved once again down the left wing a few minutes later after Kim Little found her with an excellent switch of play. Foord's dancing feet gave her an opportunity to cross into the box but the delivery had a touch too much power on it for Stina Blackstenius to direct it goalwards.
Our best chance of the half came courtesy of a beautifully threaded pass from Leah Williamson through to the edge of the box. Katie McCabe unlocked Blackstenius whose shot was initially blocked and though Frida Maanum was on hand for the rebound, Grohs eventually managed to smother the ball.
The final twenty minutes of the half belonged to the visitors. The warning signs for a Bayern goal were there with Lea Schuller having a number of attempts one-on-one with Manu Zinsberger. However, it wasn’t until a deep cross into the box that the German striker managed to head home just before the break.
We headed back onto the pitch for the second half with improved fluidity and intensity. Foord continued to look dangerous every time the ball was at her feet and in the 50th minute, our Aussie winger's glorious curling effort beat Grohs only to be denied by the post.
It looked as though we'd got our well-deserved equaliser just after the hour mark. A free kick whipped in by Maanum was met by Rafaelle and in the resultant chaos, Bayern managed to clear the ball off the line.
Luck continued to not be on our side despite showing admirable grit and determination in our search for a goal. After yet another goalmouth scramble masked a backpass to the keeper in the Bayern Munich penalty area. Our entire team appealed to the officials but nothing was given.
Our Gunners pushed until the final whistle, dominating possession and repeatedly probing the hosts' defence but we were unable to find that all-important goal. We'll now be looking to transfer all of our positive momentum into the home leg next week.
What it means
We host Bayern for the reverse fixture on March 29 at Emirates Stadium. The must-win game kicks off at 8pm UK.
Tickets are still available to buy here.
Arsenal Starting XI: Zinsberger (GK), Wienroither (Pelova, 60), Williamson, Rafaelle, Maritz, Walti, Little (C), Maanum, McCabe, Foord, Blackstenius (Kuhl, 80)
Subs not used: D'Angelo (GK), Marckese (GK), Beattie, Wubben-Moy, Hurtig, Agyemang
Bayern Munich XI: Grohs (GK), Hansen, Viggosdottir, Kumagai, Rall, Stanway (Bragstad, 90), Zadrazil, Magull (C) (Kett, 84), Lohmann, Buhl, Schuller (Damnjanovic, 78)
Subs not used: Benkarth (GK), Vilhjalmsdottir, Laurent, Simon, Ernst, Landenberger, Gloning, Rudelic
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.