Arsenal face an uphill task to qualify for the next round of the Champions League after a 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich this evening.
Arsene Wenger picked a strong side, with Theo Walcott deployed up front and Lukas Podolski facing his old club.
But the Gunners could have gotten off to a worse start when Toni Kroos fired the visitors into a 7th minute lead, shooting into the ground and past Wojciech Szczesny. The Germans doubled their lead from a corner in the 21st minute when the Polish keeper failed to deal with a near post header and Thomas Mueller tapped home from close range.
There were quickfire yellow cards for Bacary Sagna and Mikel Arteta as Arsenal tried to up the intensity and get back in the game, from a referee who seemed out of his depth.
Arsenal did get forward at times but Bayern’s stubborn and extremely efficient defence snuffed out most the danger. Per Mertesacker had a shot blocked, while Walcott and Cazorla tried and failed to find a way through.
Late in the half a simple Bayern attack saw Lahm cross for Mandzukic who had got between the centre-halves, but his powerful header went just wide of the post. Quite a let off for Arsenal and half-time arrived with a smattering of boos, immediately drowned out by a massive chant of ‘Come on Arsenal’.
Arsene Wenger made no changes at the break and started well, keeping possession but still finding it hard to break Bayern down. But after a Santi Cazorla shot deflected off Lukas Podolski the referee gave a corner to Arsenal, and from the resulting set-piece the former Bayern man got one back. The ball came across, they let it bounce in the area and Podolski headed into an empty net as Neuer came rushing out.
The Germans seemed content to let Arsenal have the ball, looking to hit on the break and once more Kroos provided some danger, shooting well at Szczesny, who was found in no-man’s land again from the resulting corner but thankfully they headed over.
As the referee dished out more yellow cards to Arsenal men simply for wearing red and having limbs, Schweinsteiger fired over from a free kick in a dangerous position, before Jack Wilshere almost ran through the Bayern defence only to overrun it with his final touch.
A Podolski shot was then cleared from inside the 6 yard box before the goalscorer was replaced by Olivier Giroud and Tomas Rosicky came on for Aaron Ramsey. Within a minute Walcott and Giroud combined, the cross from the right hand side was met sweetly by the French international but his shot went straight at Neuer.
It was looking positive for Arsenal but in the 77th minute Bayern got their two goal lead back when a Lahm cross from the right hand side found Mandzukic whose effort from close range went straight up in the air, and landed back down in the net. There was a touch of fortune to it but Vermaelen was left to deal with two players and the visitors exploited the overlap well.
Jack Wilshere then forced Neuer into a decent save after a good run before a deflected shot wrong-footed Szczesny but he did enough to force the ball wide, leaving Gomez to blast over from a tight angle.
Arsenal looked for another goal which would provide a second leg lifeline, but none was forthcoming, meaning they need to go to Germany in a couple of weeks time and score at least three goals to go through.
It’d be a massive shock if that were to happen, realistically the chances are very slim indeed, and the last tangible trophy of the season looks well and truly out of reach.
As the game drew to a close the Arsenal fans sang of their love for the club, even as we experience another defeat, it’s something worth remembering.