Arsenal came to the Allianz Arena in Bayern Munich with the biggest of mountains ahead of them, and were unable to climb over the top of it.
They might have beaten Bayern 2-0 on the night to take something positive away from this result, but given their need for at least three goals to keep their Champions League dream alive, the win will no doubt still feel like a loss for the Londoners.
Having lost 3-1 at home in the opening leg, the North London club were largely expected to struggle against the might of the Germans—especially being at home.
That was only further coupled by the absence of several big stars for the Gunners, including Wojciech Szczesny, Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski—who were all excellent for Arsenal in their opening leg against Bayern and would dearly be missed here.
Yet despite that, it was Arsenal who netted home the opening goal—stunning the home fans at the Allianz Arena and football fans around the world.
After just three minutes of play, Arsenal hit Bayern on the counterattack, and Theo Walcott found himself in space on the right-hand side of the box. He whipped in a cross, which striker Olivier Giroud connected with from close range and gave the Gunners a lead.
GOAL FOR ARSENAL! What a start for Wenger's team. Rosicky slips in Walcott, whose low cross is touched home by Giroud (3) 1-0— Arsenal.com (@Arsenal) March 13, 2013
Much like with Barcelona yesterday, Arsenal's ability to get an early goal had completely changed the complex of this match; it gave them the belief that they could win this one. Moreover, it had rattled the German giants, whose defense had been incredibly strong through the season so far.
3 - Bayern conceded their earliest goal in a competitive match 2012/13 (3rd minute). Sleepy.— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) March 13, 2013
Seemingly stunned by the first goal, Bayern would slowly work their way into the match after that goal, and would see good opportunities to peg back the margin.
Toni Kroos had a shot saved and Luiz Gustavo came very close off a corner after 15 minutes, but neither could get past the Gunners goal here, which was becoming increasingly more active as Bayern pressed forward—controlling the midfield and the right flank.
Kroos had another excellent opportunity at 25 minutes after Philipp Lahm's cross found him perfectly on the top of the box, but it was another simple save for the Gunners—even if Arsenal's defensive line was being forced to drop deeper and deeper to accommodate for Bayern's attacking skills.
Theo Walcott would be Arsenal's best attacking threat in the first half, as his great wing play and brilliant crossing caused problems for the Bayern defense. Many of his crosses went untouched, however, and at times simply sailed through the Bayern box.
What it did do, however, was give the Gunners better field possession and territory, which they started to exploit toward the latter stages of the half. They could not translate it into a second goal, but it would no doubt have been very heartening for Arsene Wenger heading into the interval.
Especially given how vulnerable they had made their opponents look.
Worth noting that Bayern have kept just one clean sheet in the Champions League this season. Underachieving by their standards— Clark Whitney (@Mr_Bundesliga) March 13, 2013
Bayern would come out firing in the second half, with both Arjen Robben and Kroos getting good looks on goal for the Bavarians. Again, however, they would be unable to get past stand-in goalkeeper Lukasz Fabiański, who had been very strong for the Gunners so far.
Arsenal were incredibly unlucky not long after that, when Walcott was judged to be offside by the linesman after slipping in behind the Bayern defense. Replays seemed to suggest otherwise, and given how few good goal-scoring opportunities the Gunners had up until that point, it was a tough break for the Londoners, and one that definitely defined the final outcome.
The game would seem to open up much more in the final 30 minutes, as both teams pressed forward looking for more goals to settle this match.
Thomas Muller had two excellent opportunities to put the home side on the board, but again, Fabiański was there to keep him out. The Londoners started to experience real pressure from the likes of Muller, Kroos and Gustavo throughout midfield.
Robben would somehow see his shot saved by Fabiański after wonderful lead-up play with Muller saw him one-on-one with the Gunners goalkeeper. Yet again, the shot-stopper would stand firm, with both Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson doing well to help put pressure on the Dutchman.
Arsenal would really push for late goals as the final minutes of the match opened up at the Allianz Arena. Both Olivier Giroud and Gervinho found good opportunities, but they were unable to snare the two goals that the Gunners would need to progress.
That was until defender Laurent Koscielny managed to head home Santi Cazorla's corner, which gave the Gunners a 2-0 lead and a chance at a third.
Arsenal have become the ultimate so-nearly club. Prove me wrong.— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) March 13, 2013
Arsenal would have a little over five minutes to try to spark a magical goal (a la Manchester City against Queens Park Rangers on the title day last year), as they threw everything forward against the Bavarians—desperate for that game-winning goal.
Alas, it was not to be and Bayern Munich would do exactly what they were expected to do at the beginning of this match: progress to the quarterfinals.
They might have taken the toughest possible road to get there, but they are through to the final eight, and will no doubt be a top contender when there.
Arsenal, on the other hand, seem destined for another trophy-less season—though they will leave the Allianz Arena tonight full of pride. They know that, despite elimination, they still have the skills and mental toughness to compete and beat the best that European football has to offer.
Proud of the effort.— James Dall (@JamesDallESPN) March 13, 2013
Theo Walcott, Arsenal: A-
Often maligned this season for his inconsistencies, Walcott was one of Arsenal's best tonight, and was a clear standout against a very tough defense.
He was strong and fast, and provided an excellent ball for the first goal.
Had he had more support on the counterattack or even on the end of his crosses, Arsenal would have no doubt experienced a much better result here. But even without that, Walcott still showed himself to be very impressive and a much-needed force in their attack for the rest of the season.
The substitution after 72 minutes was perhaps a little undeserved.
Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich: A-
Despite the lack of goals that Bayern Munich had in this one, Arjen Robben was definitely still a standout performer on the left flank. He caused problems for the Gunners defense all night, but was unable to covert that to anything on the score sheet.
Robben was key in finding space for Kroos in the middle and utilizing the strength that the Bavarians had in midfield over their London opponents.
That is, when he opted to pass the ball, as his determination and focus continued to result in him not passing the ball when perhaps there were better options available.
My two-year-old son is better at sharing than Arjen Robben— Will Tidey (@willtidey) March 13, 2013
Still, it was a very strong night from Robben.
Lukasz Fabianski, Arsenal: A+
From incredible one-on-one saves with Robben to solid movement against the plethora of shots that Kroos sent his way, Fabianski was huge for Arsenal tonight.
He was strong and organized, and showed a level-headedness not typical from a reserve goalkeeper performing on such a big stage like this one.
The shot-stopper was not daunted by the prospect of playing the German giants at the Allianz Arena, and had answers to every single one of Bayern's attacking threats—even the ones that seemed to be destined to end up with the ball in the back of the net.
With Szczesny rested, Fabianski was immense tonight and did everything he possibly could in order to bring the Londoners back from elimination. And given the work that he had to get through, it's hard to fault him for anything that took place in this one.
What did you make of this Champions League match?
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