As Arsenal prepared for their Champions League clash against triple Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, there were suggestions that the clash could be a one-sided affair such was the current dominating form of the German team. A new Bundesliga record had been set at the weekend with the Bavarian team winning their first nine games of the league campaign and they had also completed 3-0 and 5-0 victories in the previous Champions League ties. By contrast, Arsenal had lost both group games amid increasing criticism from supporters than there had been insufficient spending during the summer. Yet football games are never won on the basis of statistics and off-field events as the Tuesday evening clash demonstrated.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger had complained consistently about teams arriving at the Emirates with tactics designed to stop his team from playing but he could not accuse Bayern Munich of adopting the same cautionary approach in this encounter. The German team enjoyed more than 70% of the possession but could still only muster six shots on target as Arsenal defended with much credit.
Much had been expected of Robert Lewandowski who had scored 15 goals for club and country, but who noticeably failed to find the net at the weekend for the first time in seven matches. The Polish striker became increasingly frustrated on Tuesday evening as the Arsenal defence continued to deny their much vaunted opponents.
The loss of Aaron Ramsey to a second half hamstring injury was a blow for Arsenal but then super sub Olivier Giroud arrived on the scene. Four of the Frenchman’s five competitive goals this season have been netted during the second half of games and when a hopeful free-kick was directed towards the Bayern penalty area with just 13 minutes remaining, Giroud was able to take advantage of goalkeeping error by Manuel Neuer to open the scoring.
For a ‘keeper described arguably as the best in the world, it was a case of poor judgement as he raced out of his goal only to miss the high ball. How the German would cope in the more intense action prevalent in the Premier League is open to debate, but his error allowed Arsenal to claim the lead much against the run of play. As Bayern searched for an equaliser, a rapid counter-attack by the Gunners ended when Mesut Ozil steered the ball into the net to seal an unexpected 2-0 win for Arsenal.
Arsenal had won their previous two Premier League games by 3-0 scorelines including beating Manchester United when scoring all three goals inside the first 20 minutes. The return to match fitness of defender Per Mertesacker is certainly helping Arsenal but more importantly, this victory may inject some belief into Arsene Wenger’s team ahead of the return match next month. At least this game proved that Bayern are beatable as they failed to score a goal for the first time this season.
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