Gunners outdone by Bayern at Emirates
Bayern Munich produced a European masterclass to take a commanding 3-1 lead over Arsenal after the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash at the Emirates Stadium.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger had on Monday hit out at critics of him and his side following their FA Cup exit at home to Blackburn, but there was to be no redemption as the Germans were superior in every department.
An early strike from midfielder Toni Kroos handed the Bundesliga leaders a crucial away goal, which was doubled when Thomas Muller stabbed home from close range. Arsenal reduced the arrears with a header from Lukas Podolski against his former club, but the Germans scored their third after 77 minutes as Mario Mandzukic effectively ended the contest.
Theo Walcott's deployment as a central striker looked a sound tactical switch by Wenger as the England forward quickly got behind the Bayern defence, with Santi Cazorla also making good headway down the right.
However, the high-octane atmosphere from the home support fell flat as Bayern grabbed a crucial away goal on seven minutes. Muller's cross from the right was not dealt with and Kroos crashed the ball off the turf and past Wojciech Szczesny from 18 yards.
Franck Ribery picked out Bayern captain Philip Lahm down the right, his cross put behind. From the resulting corner, it was 2-0 and looked game over after just 21 minutes. Daniel van Buyten's header at the near post was parried by Szczesny, and Muller stabbed the ball straight back in back into the net from close range.
The Gunners suddenly sparked into life on 55 minutes when Podolski, who had a disappointing three-season spell at Bayern, headed in Jack Wilshere's right-wing corner at the far post after goalkeeper Manuel Neuer decided to stay on his line.
With 20 minutes left, Wenger produced a double switch as Olivier Giroud replaced Podolski and Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky came on for Aaron Ramsey. The France striker's first touch was to turn Walcott's superb right-wing cross goalwards, but unfortunately it was straight at Neuer.
It proved a crucial miss as Bayern scrambled in a tie-clinching third goal on 77 minutes.
Arjen Robben sidestepped Thomas Vermaelen before releasing Lahm on the overlap down the right. His cross flew through the six-yard box, where it Mandzukic got ahead of Bacary Sagna, the ball looping up off the Bayern striker's shin, over the goalkeeper and into the net.