The announcement of the starting eleven meant Bayern, and most Arsenal supporters, were still facing the possibility of a 4-3-3 formation as well as the normal 4-2-3-1. As the match kicked off it looked very much a case of the latter, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right flank and Alex Iwobi on the left.
Bayern’s starting line-up looked to be proof of the absurdity of the claims that they are not what they were. Neuer, Lahm, Hummels, Martinez, Alaba, Alonso, Vidal, Robben, Thiago, Costa, Lewandowski. Powerful.
The opening phases were interesting with Arsenal pressing high and Bayern springing direct and pacy counter attacks. Bayern were first to settle into their plan of controlled possession and forced the Gunners onto the back foot. Vidal produced the first effort on target after less than ten minutes but David Ospina saved comfortably.
In under twelve minutes we were behind. Francis Coquelin, the only person in the stadium who didn’t know you have to keep Robben away from his left foot, allowed him to do exactly that, astonishingly going the wrong way to allow the Dutch winger the opportunity to drive the ball into the top far corner. It was a fabulous strike. Three minutes later he tried his luck again but Ospina dived to grab the ball.
Bayern Munich 1-0 Arsenal
Skhodran Mustafi took a chunk of Thiago from behind and picked up an early yellow card for the visitors. The early pressing was left by the wayside as the Arsenal retreated into something of a back ten leaving Alexis looking a forlorn and frustrated lone raider. On our left flank Kieran Gibbs and Iwobi were being schooled by Robben and Lahm. The recalled Granit Xhaka was forced to be a third covering defender on that flank.
Coquelin sent Alexis scurrying away midway through the half but Martinez very easily dispossessed the solo attacker. When he made a second break a couple of minutes later he drew a foul from Hummels on the edge of the box. Hummels was shown the yellow card for the challenge. A chance for us to strike? Ozil’s free-kick was spilled by Neuer but ricocheted away to safety.
Temporarily lifted, we took up the pressing game again and were rewarded with a penalty kick when Lewandowski brought down the fast-reacting Koscielny in the box from a corner. Alexis’ spot-kick was poor, Neuer saved, but the Chilean produced a wonderful finish on the turn at the second attempt. Astonishingly, we were level.
Bayern Munich 1-1 Arsenal
The goalscorer was booked minutes later when Martinez threw himself spectacularly to ground under minimal, if any, contact. Bayern screamed at the referee when Bellerin’s arm, in a natural position, was hit from point blank range. From the resulting corner Lewandowski headed over the crossbar.
At the other end Xhaka ventured forward for a well-struck left foot volley that Neuer managed to hold onto. This was far from the passive Arsenal in the wake of the opening goal, but Bayern attempted to hit back with another high header by Lewandowski from Alaba’s cross. Hummels too missed the target with a header from a set piece conceded by Xhaka.
The last chance of the half fell to Mesut Ozil from a tight angle on the left hand side and Neuer was equal to it. A very good first-half was drawing to a close and the Arsenal could be well pleased with their response to going behind.
We started the second-half on the front foot but suffered a real blow when skipper Koscielny hobbled off with a hamstring problem to be replaced by Gabriel. The substitute’s first challenge was a vital one on Lewandowski. However the latter climbed all over Mustafi to power home a header from Lahm’s cross and Bayern were again ahead with over half an hour still to play.
Bayern Munich 2-1 Arsenal
A couple of minutes later the Arsenal defence was peeled open once more when Lewandowski back-heeled into the path of the untracked Thiago who slid the ball inside the far post. Memories of last season’s 5-1 mauling here were being resurrected.
Bayern Munich 3-1 Arsenal
Xhaka received a yellow card for a bad challenge on Alonso, who needed no encouragement to lie down at every opportunity. Gibbs survived another call for a penalty when he appeared to move his arm towards the ball to deny Robben. From the corner that followed Ospina produced a wonderful save to deny Martinez. The reprieve was temporary. Thiago’s deflected strike put us in all kinds of bother. The loss of the skipper had left us so badly exposed at the back.
Bayern Munich 4-1 Arsenal
Arsene decided the answer was to send on Theo Walcott for the unfortunate Iwobi, out of his depth on the night. Hopefully he will learn much from the experience. Arsenal’s defenders long balls upfield were coming straight back with no Olivier Giroud to hold the ball up. Walcott’s introduction ahead of the target man was mystifying. Ospina produced another fine save as Bayern powered through and around us at will.
Mustafi and Lewandowski came together, not for the first time, and the Arsenal man was less than impressed with the striker’s apparent inner ear infection. With fourteen minutes to go we finally introduced Giroud and hauled off Coquelin. Lewandowski appeared to catch Ospina as the latter made a brave save at his feet and Gabriel was quick to seek retribution. It was good to see a reaction. Gabriel and Lewandowski met shoulder to shoulder in the next attack and the latter again plunged unnecessarily and theatrically.
Lahm, outstanding on the night enjoyed the freedom of the right flank once more but from his cross Robben thankfully fired his right footer high and wide. Before he was substituted Costa brought yet another wonderful save from Ospina throwing himself full length at his far post. Lahm’s late booking for bringing down Oxlade-Chamberlain will rule him out of the second leg, but he had already ensured his team a comfortable cushion to travel with.
Walcott earned us a corner with six minutes to go but we were unable to convert it into a much needed second away goal. Lewandowski was withdrawn and managed to make it all the way to the line without falling over again. In truth he was being very professional and using up time that Arsenal badly needed to make better use of. Robben, bettered only by Lahm on the night was also taken off to a rapturous standing ovation.
Newly introduced Muller gave the scoreline a horribly familiar ring when he danced inside Oxlade-Chamberlain to slide home the fifth.
Bayern Munich 5-1 Arsenal
Arsenal’s second-half capitulation was so worrying. If we can’t lift ourselves in a Champions League knock-out tie then when can we? This tie may just have been the final crack at the Champions League for Arsene, and the result may confirm that. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and consider that when things have calmed down.