Arsenal Gifted a Goal but Bayern Munich Dominate, Look Good for UCL Glory

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2013

Coming up against one of the continent's meanest defences, Arsenal must have known before their UEFA Champions League tie against Bayern Munich that they'd have to score at home in the first leg to stand any kind of a chance going through.

They achieved that feat thanks to the mistake of an official and the momentary, not-at-all customary hesitation of the Bayern defence—but their own back line was all-at-sea in the early stages of the game, which will ultimately cost Arsenal qualification for the quarterfinals.

In truth, for the vast majority of the first half, Arsenal were swept aside by a Bayern side who were better in possession of the ball and more tactically aware of their responsibilities to use space effectively and certainly far more aggressive in heading toward goal.

Arsenal didn't start playing until they were already down 2-0.

Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer made two decent saves, in particular one from Olivier Giroud when the game was poised at 2-1 and the Gunners briefly in the ascendency. It says much about the gulf between the teams that Arsenal's only real chance to score came from a series of errors.

In short, it was gifted to Lukas Podolski—formerly of Bayern himself, of course.

A long-range shot was cannoned off the back of Podolski and the ball spun out for what should have been a clear goal kick, but the referee signalled for a corner. From the resulting set piece, hesitation and a lack of responsibility from both Neuer and Javi Martinez, led to the ball dropping nicely for Podolski, who headed Arsenal briefly back into the match.

Bayern didn't let the hope burn brightly for long and Mario Mandzukic's own fortunate finish likely ended the game as a two-legged tie even before the halfway stage was reached. His goal, added to first-half strikes from Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller, means that Arsenal are already on the verge of a Champions League exit.

Out of both domestic cups, out of the Premier League title race and now seemingly out of Europe, Arsenal have only fourth place in the league to fight for during the remainder of what is becoming an increasingly desperate season.

Bayern, on the other hand, look stronger with each passing game.

For the Bavarians, the memory of last season's near-misses, but ultimate failures, surely remains too close at hand for any considerations of letting this lead slip.

Having ended in second place in Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League tournaments last season, it looks like Bayern have already all but wrapped up the league title for this season—and on this evidence, they are looking a great bet for European glory once more, too.

Who needs Pep Guardiola?