By Rob Kelly at Emirates Stadium
Laurent Koscielny’s second-half red card proved to be the decisive moment of another frustrating clash against Bayern Munich that saw us exit the Champions League.
The Gunners were excellent in the first half, determined to live up to Arsene Wenger’s calls for them to play with “lucid rage”.
Theo Walcott capped a bright individual performance by opening the scoring with a fierce drive in the 26th minute, and went close again before the half was out.
Olivier Giroud headed a good chance over at the start of the second period, but the game turned on the penalty incident that saw Koscielny sent off soon afterwards.
Robert Lewandowski slotted home from the spot, before Arjen Robben took advantage of a defensive error to put the Bundesliga champions in front.
Douglas Costa stepped off the bench to add a third as the 10-man Gunners struggled to keep Bayern at bay, before Arturo Vidal added a fourth and then a fifth.
It was a disappointing end to a night that had started to positively, and leaves Wenger having to raise spirits quickly ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Lincoln City.
SETTING THE SCENE
With history against them - no side had ever progressed with a four-goal deficit after the first leg - there was a certain sense of freedom for the Gunners due to the lack of expectation.
Almost all of the pre-match talk had centred around Alexis’ involvement after his benching at Anfield, but the Chilean was straight back into the starting side.
It was one of four changes to the Arsenal line up, with Giroud dropping to the bench along with Francis Coquelin, who was replaced by Aaron Ramsey in midfield.
Alex Iwobi missed out through illness, so Walcott was drafted in while David Ospina returned in goal for this Champions League encounter after impressing in Germany.
Mesut Ozil had recovered sufficiently from a bout of ‘flu to start from the bench, where he was also joined by Kieran Gibbs, Gabriel and Lucas.
However, there was a late twist as Danny Welbeck felt ill in the warm up and had to pull out, with Giroud coming in to replace him and Alexis moving out wide.
Bayern, meanwhile, made two changes from the side that had beaten the Gunners so convincingly last month, with Rafinha replacing the suspended Phillip Lahm and Franck Ribery in for Douglas Costa.
The Gunners came out of the traps in a positive manner, and soon had the fans right behind them as they took the game to the Germans.
Walcott had the crowd on their feet early on as he raced on to a raking through ball from Granit Xhaka, but Manuel Neuer raced off his line to clear as the England international tried to take it past him.
Giroud soon headed a looping Alexis cross against the post from close range, before Walcott slalomed his way into the box only to be dispossessed as he was about to take aim.
It was a really encouraging start from Wenger’s side, who had clearly taken their manager’s pre-match advice to attack in a controlled manner to heart.
Gone was the lethargy of their first-half performances at Anfield, replaced by a vibrant energy that the Emirates crowd were responding to.
With 26 minutes on the clock, they had their reward as Walcott showed good strength to shield a throw in, before racing straight at the heart of the Bayern backline.
He tricked his way into the area beyond Mats Hummels, before taking aim from a tight angle and arrowing a fierce shot beyond Neuer and into the roof of the net.
Now we had a game.
As expected, Bayern responded well and Ospina soon had to be alert to race off his line and clear as Lewandowski tried to latch on to Thiago’s lofted through ball that had bisected the Arsenal defence.
But Wenger’s side remained in control, zipping the ball around with real pace and invention and stretching the Bayern defence in a way they had not been able to in the first leg.
Walcott came so close to adding the second goal his side deserved when he raced on to Shokdran Mustafi’s superb ball into the area, but the angle was too tight this time and his shot crashed into the sidenetting.
The Emirates was rocking - this was more like it, this was the Arsenal want to see and they were making the visitors looking distinctly uncomfortable.
But one slick move soon reminded us of their attacking potential as Arjen Robben cut in from the right and slipped the ball through to Lewandowski, who diverted the ball beyond Ospina but past the far post.
Arsenal remained on the front foot after the restart, and came close to immediately adding a second when Ramsey picked out Giroud at the far post but his header looped up and over the bar.
It felt like the sort of opportunity that had to be taken if the Gunners were to pull off the seemingly impossible, but still they continued to flow forward at will.
But just when they were really starting to settle into the second half, disaster struck as Lewandowski was barged over the area and the referee awarded a penalty.
There was further punishment as Koscielny was given his marching orders, before Lewandowski kept his nerve from the spot to level things up.
It felt harsh on Wenger’s side, who had looked so slick for long periods, but now they had half an hour remaining, a man down against one of the best sides in Europe.
Bayern suddenly looked far more comfortable with their numerical advantage, and Ospina had to make an outstanding save to prevent Lewandowski from putting the visitors in front.
But the Colombian could do nothing when, a few minutes later, Alexis was caught in possession outside just outside the area and Robben raced through to put the visitors in front.
Lewandowski then hit the post when he should have scored after good work by Costa, before Ospina raced off his line to deny the Polish striker moments later.
But Costa was able to add a third for the Germans when he cut in from the right and curled the ball home to rub further salt into the wound for the Gunners.
Vidal almost immediately added a fourth as the hosts continued to unravel, and the Chilean was also on hand to add a fifth in the closing stages.
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