Arsenal agony as Ozil implodes and Szczesny sees red

Feb 20, 2014
Bill Mann

Gunners' night of misfortune against Bayern mirrors that of Man City a day earlier

Bongarts/Getty Images

Arsenal 0 Bayern Munich 2. Arsenal look like following Manchester City out of the Champions League after a night of agony at the Emirates. There was a horrible similarity between events in north London on Wednesday and those of the previous evening when the ten-man City lost by the same scoreline to Barcelona, with a killer late goal proving decisive.

Now Arsenal must travel to Germany next month in search of something special after a galling defeat to the European champions.

The difference between the two ties, however, was that where City were never really in the game against Barcelona, Arsenal stood toe-to-toe with their illustrious visitors during the opening half hour. Indeed, the English side should have taken the lead on nine minutes after Mesut Ozil was chopped down by Jerome Boateng in the penalty area.

Mikel Arteta or Olivier Giroud normally take the Arsenal penalties but with neither in the starting line-up Ozil himself took the spot kick. It was a shocker, a tamely hit effort that Manuel Neuer flapped away.

Ozil never recovered his morale and the miss put the belief back into Bayern. The Bundesliga champions, who have lost just once in the last 36 matches in all competitions (to Manchester City in the group stage), began to find their passing game and the Gunners were forced into a change when Kieran Gibbs pulled up with what appeared to a thigh injury.

Nacho Monreal replaced him and minutes later Arsenal were once again ringing the changes after Wojciech Szczesny was sent off for felling Arjen Robben in the box. It was a clear penalty but was it a red card offence? Television replays suggested that Robben, who was twisting in mid-air to control Toni Kroos' lovely lofted pass, wasn't guaranteed a goal when he was fouled, and that referee Nicola Rizzoli was harsh in dispatching the Arsenal keeper.

Lukasz Fabianski was rushed into the fray with Santi Cazorla the player sacrificed by Arsene Wenger although the Arsenal manager would have been better advised hauling off the shattered Ozil rather than his tough little Spanish midfielder.

Fabianski never got the chance to be Arsenal's hero for David Alaba - who'd waited two minutes for Arsenal to make all their changes - produced a spot-kick even worse than Ozil's, the ball skimming the outside of the left-hand post.

If a collective sigh of relief could be heard round the Emirates there was also an ominous sense of foreboding at what awaited Arsenal in the remaining hour of the game.

Backs to the wall, the Gunners held out until 54 minutes before Kroos gave Bayern the lead with a sweet strike from the edge of the area that just curled inside Fabianski's post. Thomas Muller then added a second, a well-directed header two minutes from time, to leave Arsenal clinging to the Champions League by their fingertips.

Arsenal stunned Bayern in Munich last season, winning 2-0 after suffering a 3-1 reverse in the first leg, but the reigning champions are unlikely to be so complacent second time around.

So for the second night running the manager of an English club was left whining about the referee as Wenger claimed that the red card "killed the game". The Arsenal boss added: "Our keeper went genuinely for the ball, he touched Robben, who made certainly more of it, and I told him."

Szczesny was clearly upset with the decision as he left the pitch and his anger was shared by his manager. "He (Robben) has enough experience to know to make more of it. Overall I thought Bayern made a lot of every single contact, we are not used to that in England. There were fouls given today that usually are not given in the Premier League, but it's different rules and we have to accept it. The game was, until then, top quality, and in the second half it was boring for neutral people. It was one-way traffic."

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Arsenal fans are joining the English media to destroy what has taken them years to acquire. Two penalty misses is not the end of the world. Ozil has many playing years to do greater things for Arsenal. All the German needs is their unflinching support during this traumatic time he's having. 42.5 million pounds spent on just one player is not enough to win the UCL or EPL, fans must know. He needs to improve (and he surely will), but a tree can't make a forest.