0 – 1 Kroos (54)
0 – 2 Muller (88)
Wojciech Szczesny sent off, Özil wasted a penalty. Alaba missed as well.
On a night which promised much and answered a few questions, Arsenal ended the ninety minutes in the same position as last season. They have to win by a three goal margin in Munich although a ray of hope comes with the knowledge that repeat the victory of twelve months ago and this time they have thirty more minutes to find the winner. I hope we don’t believe that winning on penalties is a feasible option.
And how different it might all have been.
Recent games had seen Arsenal cede territory and opportunities straight from kick-off; Wojciech Szczesny’s save from Tony Kroos early strike signalled the problem still exists. What is different was the reaction; Arsenal fought back immediately, not for them the prospect of finding their feet. Taking the game to the visitors proved relatively successful and opportunity knocked when Özil was felled after an exquisite backheel; it was a clear-cut penalty. An opportunity to take an early advantage, and as Arsène put it post-match, to create doubt in Bayern minds. It took courage to take the kick when others did not want to but as Özil stuttered forward, the outcome seemed inevitable. Unsurprisingly, his effort was saved with the style of penalty relying on the goalkeeper moving; when he doesn’t, sending the ball down the middle of the goal is only going to end one way. Credit to Neuer for having the strength to wait for the kick to come before committing to the dive.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but the wisdom of Özil taking the kick in the first place is questionable, given he was facing a goalkeeper who he has presumably taken many penalties against during international training camps. Neuer knew what to expect and it showed. The second aspect is the mental impact on Özil himself; to take a penalty, you have to be prepared to miss and feel nothing, to not let it affect your game. Arsène summed it up afterwards,
Yes, he was affected by it. I think he wanted to do so well tonight that it affected him. You could see even five or 10 minutes later on the pitch he still was shaking his head. It had a huge impact on his performance
And it was a match which needed everyone firing on all cylinders and it seemed a little of the belief from the whole side died in that moment.
There was an air of inevitability in the outcome when Arjen Robben shook loose the defence and reached Kroos lofted ball first; Szczesny arrived a second later and in that moment, the game changed. As with Arsenal’s penalty, there is no question of the decision to award the spot kick. Likewise, the decision to dismiss the Pole was no surprise and in my view, the right decision. There is no point in bleating about double punishments, the Laws of the Game are quite clear on denying a goalscoring opportunity; it is a red card if the last man makes the foul. Certainly no player was going to get back to cover the goal had Robben got to the ball. Whether he would have got to the ball is debatable as the collision makes it a subjective decision. The referee believed he would therefore was right in sending off the goalkeeper. Arsène was not happy afterwards but acknowledged the foul and that Italian referees will dismiss goalkeepers in those circumstances.
It brought back painful memories of Paris and the impact of playing against the best team in Europe with ten men. Szczesny misjudged the situation; was he trying to get the ball or to make sure that Robben couldn’t score? The latter opens the debate; is it better to use foul means to prevent a goal but risk a red card? Or is it better to be a goal down with eleven men to chase the deficit? In this case, eleven men at parity with Bayern for Alaba sent Fabianski the wrong way but the post was not fooled and like Neuer, remained upright and deflected the ball to safety.
The sacrificial lamb was a surprising choice; Santi Cazorla making way to accommodate Fabianski’s arrival. Özil’s mind whilst not in pieces, was not on the game and to me, there was more sense in removing him. Perhaps Wenger sensed that would do more damage than good to the player? Maybe he genuinely thought the German would respond and be more penetrative on the rare counter Arsenal were to enjoy with numerical disadvantage?
With ten men, a goal seemed inevitable. The pity is that it came so early in the second half, frustration had not yet had time to take hold in Bavarian minds. It was a cracking goal, Kroos had time on the edge of the area and conjured a superb curling shot into the top corner which left Fabianski helplessly caught in the side netting. There was nothing the Pole could do to stop the ball entering the net such was the precision in effort. I feel I have missed an opportunity here; a pun about missiles is swirling in my mind. Never mind, the moment has passed.
As with the first, a shame Muller didn’t wait another ten minutes – until after the final whistle had blown – before finding space in the penalty area; unmarked, a player of his calibre was never going to miss from Lahm’s inviting cross. It might have been worse but the woodwork saved a more decisive scoreline when Kroos struck the post in final minute.
Arsène was defensive about resting Olivier Giroud and it was certainly a brave team selection. You sense he had little choice for he was less than convincing when putting the case that the striker was unaffected by personal problems. Despite a good performance on Sunday, it makes little sense to willingly leave out your first-choice centre forward for an untried youngster. Sanogo did well, don’t get me wrong; he might have scored early in the match and worked hard through the ninety minutes. Equally, Wenger would have felt pleased with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s work until injury forced his withdrawal.
The impact of two penalties resonated through the match. Özil’s miss rocked the boat, Szczesny’s dismissal capsized it. Mind out of the way please, the Fat Lady has finished her warm up.