Bayern Munich bagged a 2-0 away win over Arsenal in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday, thanks largely, admitted coach Pep Guardiola, to Wojciech Szczesny's red card 37 minutes in.
Bayern’s Guardiola admits ‘after the red ... it was another game’
Bayern Munich are in pole position to reach the Champions League quarter-finals after a sublime strike from Toni Kroos inspired the holders’ 2-0 win against 10-man Arsenal on Wednesday.
Pep Guardiola’s side rode their luck in a dramatic last 16 first leg clash at the Emirates Stadium, but their class eventually told as Kroos produced his moment of magic and Thomas Mueller bagged the killer second goal in the closing stages.
Bayern survived an early penalty miss from Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil and a squandered spot-kick of their own by David Alaba.
But Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny had been sent off in the incident that led to Bayern’s penalty and the visitors eventually capitalised on their numerical superiority through Germany midfielders Kroos and Mueller.
Bayern will be expected to finish the job in the second leg on March 11, but Arsenal can take heart from their 2-0 win in Munich at the same stage last season, even if that result wasn’t enough to stop Arsene Wenger’s team bowing out on away goals.
“Everything went against us. We should have been 3-0 up before they got a sniff in the game,” Wenger said.
“We had more problems in the second half with 10 men because they have very good players.”
Guardiola added: “Arsenal were much better than us for the first 20 minutes. After the red card for their goalkeeper it was another game.
“It is difficult when you see nine defenders in the box. But we controlled this situation, played with patience and found the goals.”
Bayern swaggered into north London widely acclaimed as firm favourites to win both the tie and eventually the competition itself to cap another majestic campaign.
But Arsenal tore into Bayern with a relish that seemed to shock the Germans and quickly carved out two decent chances, with first Yaya Sanogo and then Santi Cazorla denied by Manuel Neuer.
Arsenal’s frenzied start had clearly rattled the visitors and they should have been ahead in the ninth minute.
Jack Wilshere slipped a perfectly-weighted pass behind the Bayern defence and Ozil took a touch before cleverly clipping the ball inside Jerome Boateng, wrong-footing the centre-back who responded by clumsily stretching out his leg and sending the Germany midfielder crashing to the turf.
Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli awarded the penalty, but Ozil has been in poor form of late and he appeared hesitant before sending a tame effort straight down the middle which his childhood friend Neuer kept out with a fine one-handed save.
With Bayern labouring, Boateng, booked after conceding the penalty, was fortunate to escape a second yellow card following a heavy challenge on Wilshere.
But Guardiola’s men gradually recovered their equilibrium and should have taken the lead in the 40th minute.
Arjen Robben played a simple pass to Kroos and he burst into the penalty area for the chipped return ball without being tracked by the statuesque Arsenal rearguard.
Robben’s first touch took the ball past Szczesny, who caught the Dutch international with his leg, conceding a penalty and in the process earning a red card, the 100th of Wenger’s 18-year reign.
After a long delay, Lukasz Fabianski came on as the replacement goalkeeper and Austrian left-back Alaba, perhaps put off by the stoppage, hit a poor penalty which clipped a post and bounced wide.
Bayern’s inconsistent first half prompted a tactical reshuffle at the break, with Guardiola sending on Rafinha for Boateng and moving Javi Martinez to central defence, allowing right-back Philipp Lahm to move in midfield and dictate the tempo.
The changes worked wonders and Mario Goetze and Robben tested Fabianski before the Germans broke the deadlock in the 54th minute.
With Arsenal defending too deep, Lahm was under no pressure as he teed up Kroos and the midfielder, in space on the edge of the penalty area, curled a sumptuous first-time shot into the roof of the net.
Substitute Mueller appealed in vain for another penalty following Laurent Koscielny’s trip, but he picked himself up to deliver the knockout blow in the 88th minute.
Timing his run to meet Lahm’s cross, Mueller found space in the centre of Arsenal’s defence and directed a diving header past the exposed Fabianski.