By Nik Brumsack at Allianz Arena
Arsenal have it all to do in the Champions League after losing 5-1 in Munich on Wednesday evening.
Against a dominant Bayern Munich side who were irresistible going forward, the Gunners were blown away by their slick, incisive hosts in the first half.
Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring in the 10th minute following a failed attempt to play offside and, though Mesut Ozil had a goal ruled out for handball soon after, Bayern were in control and doubled their advantage when Thomas Muller’s shot was deflected in at the near post.
Petr Cech made a string of fine saves but was beaten by David Alaba’s dipping 25-yard shot on the stroke of half-time, before substitute Arjen Robben added a fourth after the break.
Arsenal kept going and pulled one back through Olivier Giroud’s fine acrobatic volley before Muller completed the scoring a minute from time.
The result, coupled with Olympiacos’ win in Zagreb, means Arsenal will have to win both their remaining games - at home to Dinamo and in Piraeus - to have any chance of progressing from Group F.
This was a tough evening for Arsène Wenger’s team but with Sunday’s north London derby on the horizon, they must respond - and quickly.
SETTING THE SCENE
Wenger made two changes to the side that had beaten Swansea City on Saturday. One was expected - Mathieu Debuchy replacing the injured Hector Bellerin - the other, Gabriel in for Laurent Koscielny, came as a surprise. The France centre half missed out on a starting spot due to a minor hip injury but did take a spot on the bench.
Arsenal were otherwise unchanged from the side that had beaten Swansea City on Saturday. That meant a first return to Allianz Arena for Cech since 2012, when he saved three penalties to help Chelsea win the Champions League.
Per Mertesacker continued as captain, while Nacho Monreal made his 100th Arsenal appearance.
Meanwhile, Bellerin’s absence meant a spot for highly-rated teenager Jeff Reine-Adelaide on the bench.
Bayern have started the 2015/16 season in ominous form, winning 13 of their first 15 matches and scoring 48 goals in the process. No less than 27 of those had come in their seven home matches, all of which Bayern had won.
Despite that impressive record, Arsenal could take solace from the fact that they came into this fixture unbeaten on their two previous trips to Bavaria.
Pep Guardiola had promised in his pre-match press conference that Bayern would “attack as much as possible”.
Despite that assertion, it was Arsenal that had the first shot at goal, Giroud curling wide from inside the area after just 24 seconds.
That roused the hosts, who responded courtesy of a long-range Alaba strike. Cech held it well.
There was nothing the goalkeeper could do soon after though, when Bayern took the lead through Lewandowski. Arsenal’s defence was culpable, trying to play offside and leaving the striker totally free to nod into the bottom corner from eight yards.
The Gunners replied impressively and had the ball in the Bayern within two minutes of going behind. Unfortunately for Wenger’s side, Ozil used his elbow to divert the ball past Manuel Neuer and saw his effort ruled out.
Back came Bayern - and Lewandowski in particular. The Poland striker was proving why various media outlets have labelled him the best No 9 in the world, and only two fine Cech saves prevented him from doubling the advantage.
The hosts were spending more and more time in the Arsenal half, and it came as no surprise when they did go 2-0 ahead on the half hour. Philipp Lahm was the instigator, racing down the right before crossing for Kingsley Coman, whose scuffed shot fell invitingly for Muller. The forward’s snapshot took a deflection off Mertesacker and snuck in at Cech’s near post.
Straight from the kick-off, Bayern almost moved further out of sight. Francis Coquelin under-hit a pass in the direction of Cech and Lewandowski pounced, only for the goalkeeper to force him wide.
The goalkeeper made another fine save to stop Muller making it three but could not stop Alaba’s 25-yard curler from nestling in the top corner on the stroke of half-time.
After a low-key start to the second half, Guardiola introduced Robben to add a further injection of pace to Bayern’s attack. The substitute had an instant impact, guiding Alaba’s low cross into the roof of the net just 37 seconds after coming on.
This game was over but, to their credit, Arsenal were creating chances of their own. Santi Cazorla should have pulled one back on the hour but shot straight at Neuer after going clean through. Then Nacho Monreal elected not to shoot at the end of an intricate move.
The Gunners did give their ever-vocal 3,000 travelling fans something to cheer midway through the second half. It was a superb goal too, Giroud taking Alexis’ pass on his chest before sending a superb scissors kick past Neuer.
They should have scored a second 10 minutes later. Again the chance fell to Cazorla, again he spurned it, spooning over Coquelin’s cut-back from close range.
Wenger handed Alex Iwobi a late Champions League debut but Bayern finished the match as they had spent much of it - on the front foot. They completed the scoring in the 89th minute when Douglas Costa charged through the middle before playing in Muller, who stroked home.
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi
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