Tuesday 20 March 2018

Arsenal's European dream hit by Kroos missile

Arsenal 0 Bayern Munich 2

Toni Kroos celebrates his goal which put Bayern Munich ahead against Arsenal in their Champions League last-16 first-leg match
Toni Kroos celebrates his goal which put Bayern Munich ahead against Arsenal in their Champions League last-16 first-leg match
Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny fouls Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich to receive a red card in the UEFA Champions League tie
Arsenal's Mesut Ozil misses a penalty kick against Bayern Munich during their Champions League last-16 first-leg match at the Emirates
Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer saves Mesut Ozil's first-half penalty
Bayern Munich's David Alaba misses from the penalty spot against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal's Bacary Sagna collides with Bayern Munich's David Alaba during their Champions League tie
Bayern Munich's Mario Mandzukic wins the ball in the air ahead of teammate Javi Martinez and Arsenal defenders Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs
Arsenal's Mesut Ozil strides ahead of Javi Martinez during the UEFA Champions League game against Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium
Lukasz Fabianski of Arsenal dives to makes a save from Bayern Munich's Claudio Pizarro during the UEFA Champions League last-16 first-leg tie at Emirates Stadium
Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller celebrates his goal late in the game against Arsenal

Henry Winter at the Emirates

Another night, another lesson, another damaging dismissal and another defeat for Premier League representatives in the Champions League.

Arsenal paid for Mesut Ozil's missed penalty, for Wojciech Szczesny's challenge on Arjen Robben which saw Arsenal down to 10, the 100th red card under Arsene Wenger.

Like Manchester City succumbing to Lionel Messi's Barcelona on Tuesday, Arsenal were also beaten because the unrelenting appliance of technique from the champions of Europe, particularly from Robben and Toni Kroos, was on another level.

Robben tied Nacho Monreal up in knots, Kroos struck the first, Thomas Muller headed the second and Arsenal face a mountain in the foothills of the Alps in the second leg.

Arsenal were let down badly by a German, by Ozil, not simply with a languid spot-kick, but his failure to take more responsibility. Bayern were so good, enjoying 73pc possession with Kroos outstanding, making 143 passes, 93pc of which found their intended target. Manchester United manager David Moyes looked on intently.


The second half of Kroos' thunderbolt and near total Bayern supremacy against 10 men seemed impossible to imagine during Arsenal's vibrant opening.

Before one of the most mesmerising halves of football at the Emirates this season, a half of one red and two missed penalties, Arsenal fans had demonstrated real artistry with their pre-match mosaic that covered all the ground bar the away corner.

Arsenal had needed that sort of co-ordination and creativity on the field, qualities initially offered by Ozil and always by Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Wilshere was swiftly involved, powering forward, running at Bayern's defence. Arsenal had the champions of Europe, the team 16 points clear in the Bundesliga, stuttering and stumbling early on.

So imperious after Szczesny's dismissal, the Germans did lift the early siege briefly, almost scoring when Robben found Kroos, whose shot was clawed away by the stretching Szczesny.

But Arsenal were flooding forward, Santi Cazorla bringing a save from the busy Manuel Neuer. Then Yaya Sanogo, chosen in front of the mentally exhausted Olivier Giroud, almost celebrated his second start with a goal but his shot was saved.

Then came that ninth-minute penalty miss by Ozil, a waste of a wonderful attacking move, accelerated by Wilshere's pass down the inside-left which invited Ozil to run at Jerome Boateng. Bayern's centre-half was totally deceived as Ozil cut inside, being brought down.

During the days of Thierry Henry, Arsenal often had debates over whether the player fouled should take the penalty. Too distracted? Perhaps with judgment blurred by adrenalin? Arsenal were without two of their regular takers, Giroud and the suspended Mikel Arteta.

Ozil grabbed the ball, placed it down, looked at Neuer, his old school-mate, and then attempted to outwit his current German international colleague. Ozil was far too casual with the penalty, almost arrogant, placing it down the middle.

Neuer was diving to his left but stretched out a hand and those strong wrists served Bayern well again. Germans missing penalties in front of an English audience? Wonders never cease.

Neuer was one of the stars of a magnificent half overflowing with moves and chances. Mathieu Flamini cleared a David Alaba shot and then appeared down the other end, lifting a shot over.

Oxlade-Chamberlain then twisted Dante into submission but Javi Martinez dropped back to clear. For 45 minutes, Martinez was anchoring in Guardiola's 4-1-4-1 system with Philipp Lahm at right-back.

Kroos was dropping back for the ball, starting moves with Martinez. Lahm was everywhere down the right Mario Mandzukic could not get away from Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.

Arsenal then lost Kieran Gibbs to injury, bringing Nacho Monreal on. Spotting Monreal, Lahm moved up another gear. So did Robben. Never loved in these parts for his Chelsea connections, Robben then appeared centrally, passing to Kroos before running through Arsenal's defence as the return ball arched his way. Robben steered it to one side of Szczesny, who careered into the Dutchman.

He caught Robben's shin and the Bayern man was fortunate that his foot was not planted.

It was a clear penalty, a clear red card and Szczesny had to walk. Disbelievingly, slightly mournfully, Szczesny headed towards the tunnel, pausing for a few words of encouragement for Lukasz Fabianski, who had replaced the unfortunate Cazorla. As Szczesny left, he appeared to make a hand gesture similar to the rolling of a dice.

Fabianski took up his place in goal, got ready for the penalty from Alaba, the Austrian who promptly stroked his penalty low against the post and out. Fabianski was beaten nine minutes into the second half. It had been coming.

Guardiola had been unimpressed with some of Boateng's defending, and removed him at the break, sending on Rafinha to right-back, pulling Martinez back to centre-half and pushing the versatile Lahm, the gold-medal decathlete of footballers, into midfield.

Rafinha joined Lahm and Robben in terrorising Monreal. Ozil offered Monreal as much protection as a crepe-paper wind-break. Lahm passed to Kroos, who met the ball first time from 20 yards out, sending an unstoppable shot past Fabianski.

A year ago, Kroos had scored with an even better goal here against Arsenal, also from a ball from the right, that time by Muller. Muller soon came on, another reminder of their depth of class.

Robben almost added a second as the derision pursued his footsteps.

Guardiola was looking slightly agitated at his team's failure to add a second away goal. Robben went close again, curling a shot wide. Then Koscielny fouled Muller but there were few appeals from the Germans. Muller was more intent on staying on his feet than beseeching the Italian referee, Nicola Rizzoli.

The Robben masterclass continued. His pace, change of direction and technical quality kept worrying Arsenal.

Yet Wenger's men were defending stoically until the final two minutes but then Lahm dinked the ball in, and there was the unmarked Muller heading past Fabianski from seven yards. "Football's coming home" sang the Bayern fans in that mischievous way of theirs.

Any hope was fading for Arsenal.

Kroos almost extinguished it in injury time but his low shot hit a post. That failure to strengthen in attack cost them.

So did Ozil's miss. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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