Arsenal arrived at the Allianz Arena hoping to stop a team who had averaged four goals a game at home in all competitions this season. They departed a chastened side after Europe’s best had extracted full revenge for their defeat at the Grove a fortnight ago.
The team news an hour before kick-off provided one surprise. As expected Mathieu Debuchy replaced the injured Hector Bellerin at right back, Laurent Koscielny was replaced by Gabriel, possibly a precautionary measure with the North London derby coming up. Joel Campbell retained his place after his goalscoring performance at Swansea.
The Gunners made a bright start and just 26 seconds in Olivier Giroud fired wide with our first effort. The only action Petr Cech saw in the opening five minutes was a simple catch of a hopeful cross. Alaba had their first speculative effort from thirty yards in the seventh minute, but again it was a comfortable save for Cech.
The breakthrough came in the tenth minute, and it was a horror story for the Arsenal. Gabriel moved out as a cross came into the box but timed it wrong, leaving Lewandowski free to head past a surprisingly stationary Cech, who presumably thought a flag was coming.
Arsenal immediately went down the other end and thought they had scored when Mesut Ozil converted Nacho Monreal’s cross. The referee gave it but under pressure from the Bayern defenders the fifth official on the goal-line informed the referee that Ozil had handled. The goal was rightly disallowed and to rub salt in the wound Ozil was booked.
Coman forced Cech into action twice and then the ‘keeper saved another Lewandowski header at full stretch. Wave after wave of attacks were now being launched by the impressive hosts.
Joel Campbell picked up a yellow card midway through the half, bringing a spectacular tumble out of Coman. From the free-kick Francis Coquelin produced an excellent defensive header under pressure.
Muller found the corner (sorry about that) and all but put the match out of the Gunners reach in the 29th minute with an effort that deflected in off Per Mertesacker. A minute later Cech had to be on his toes to deny Lewandowski a third.
On an increasingly rare break Alexis was bundled off the ball on the left flank. Where Campbell had been booked for a lesser challenge there wasn’t even a free-kick awarded.
With ten minutes of the half remaining Mathieu Debuchy denied Lewandowski at the expense of a corner. Shortly afterwards it was Muller’s turn to warm Cech’s palms again, twice, in two minutes. Costa got in on the act drawing another fine save from the ‘keeper. The inevitable third was only being delayed.
Alaba, the left-back, won the ball in the centre of the park and from 20 yards out blasted one into the top corner of the net. We were picking the worst possible opponents to have an off night against. The half-time whistle came to our rescue, but only temporarily.
Arsenal did try to start the second-half in more positive mode with Ozil and Sanchez looking to find us a way back into the match but Bayern defended in numbers as well as throwing bodies forward. Pep Guardiola’s response was to send Arjen Robben on for Coman and with his first touch he made it 4-0 from Alaba’s cut-back.
That prompted Arsenal’s best counter to date and Neuer had to be at his best to deny Santi Cazorla. Almost immediately the ineffective Campbell was replaced by Kieran Gibbs with Alexis switching to the right. More intricate build up orchestrated by Ozil ended up with Monreal bursting into the box but stumbling at the crucial moment.
A consolation arrived in the 69th minute, and impressive it was. Alexis launched another counter which ended with him finding Giroud in the box. The big Frenchman chested it down, swivelled, and volleyed home. Not appreciating what was little more than a flesh wound Guardiola sent on Vidal for Lewandowski.
After some spectacular interplay between Ozil, Coquelin, and Alexis ended up with the latter’s effort being blocked Coquelin stormed forward again and set up Santi for a skied effort at the near post. The momentum was clearly now with the Gunners, although at 4-1 Bayern could be forgiven for taking their foot off the gas.
With seven minutes remaining Robben found himself in behind the back line and he rounded Cech only for Debuchy to make an astonishing recovery tackle. Monreal then did similar to deny Muller.
In between, with an eye on Sunday, Arsene Wenger withdrew Giroud and sent on Alex Iwobi. In the closing minutes Calum Chambers was sent on to give Santi a rest. The substitutions turned things Bayern’s way again and Muller was allowed too much time and space to beat Cech at his near post.
5-1 was a fair reflection of this game, and a last gasp win for Olympiakos in Greece made an awful night worse for the Gunners. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say fair play to the opposition. Bayern are some team. Arsenal face a huge last matchday in Greece, assuming they beat Zagreb at home.