In an entertaining Champions League match at the Emirates Stadium in London, Arsenal needed to get something against unbeaten FC Bayern Munich. For the longest time, it looked like the game might end in a goalless draw. Luckily for the Londoners, a mistake from the most unexpected source, Manuel Neuer, allowed them to take the lead, and secure three valuable points.
Bayern just being Bayern
Bayern started out with their usual possession game, not allowing Arsenal to see much of the ball in the first 25 to 30 minutes. But Arsenal was lurking for counter attacks, and the speed up front with Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez would put the Bayern defense under pressure.
Cech was making save after save on Bayern's offense, denying and frustrating Thiago (11, on a pretty give-and-go with Thomas Müller), Douglas Costa (19, after dribbling through the defense) and Arturo Vidal (28).
Arsenal come alive
In the following ten minutes, the English club started seeing the ball a little more, and made some forays into Munich territory. Arsene Wenger's men would see their biggest chance of the game in the 33rd minute, when a cross, misjudged by David Alaba, would find its way onto Walcott's head, who directed it on goal, and was probably already contemplating what kind of celebration to have, when Neuer would flash across, and pulled the ball out of midair with his left denying Arsenal the opening goal.
The rest of the half would be a lot more even, with chances on both sides, with Costa forcing Cech into yet another save with his fingertips in the 42nd minute.
Handball by Sanchez
The only controversy in the first half came in the 44th minute, when Alexis Sanchez came back to help out in his own penalty box, and had the ball bounce up and clearly hit him on his outstretched arm, which helped him regain control of it. The Turkish referee ruled it unintentional, and let play continue, despite the Bayern protests for a penalty kick. It would not be the only significant handball in the game.
More Bayern pressure to start the second half
The second half started the same way as the first, with Bayern once again holding the ball, taking repeated shots on Cech's goal, though most were either well off target, or easy saves for the former Chelsea man. With about 20 minutes remaining, it seemed like Pep was content with taking a point home to Munich, subbing out Xabi Alonso (who had been masterful at directing play) and Vidal (playing both in the middle, further up front, or on the right wing), and bringing on Joshua Kimmich and Rafinha (causing Lahm to shift into the midfield). Bayern's play appeared to suffer, with less fluidity in their movements and passing.
Arsenal's early Christmas present
After looking like a brick wall in goal, Manuel Neuer made a critical mistake. On a free kick from the middle of the field into the box, Germany's number one decided to come out into the crowd of players, and completely whiffed on the ball. Beneficiary of the error was Olivier Giroud, who had just come in for Walcott a few minutes prior, as the ball grazed his head and distinctly bounced off his arms and into the goal, all while falling down and not even knowing where the ball was. Once again, no handball was called, and the goal was allowed to stand.
Bayern press for the equalizer
Bayern would push up to attempt to tie the game, but most of the shots and plays weren't accurate or dangerous enough to bother Cech, except for a beautiful passing sequence, with a through ball from Müller to Costa, who would find Lewandowski running into the box. Unfortunately for the Polish striker, Cech was up to that challenge as well, coming out and getting a piece of the shot.
Arsenal get another in injury time
A mistake in the 94th minute by Juan Bernat would lead to another score from Arsenal, as Bellerin jumped on a ball that Bernat should have shielded, blew by Thiago, and crossed it perfectly to Özil, who would convert it, despite almost another world class save by Neuer. This time, Bayern's keeper was not able to keep the ball from going over the line.
Arsenal are alive again, Bayern are still in good shape
As tough as this loss is to take for Bayern, it's not a major setback for the Bavarians, considering their start to the group stages. Arsenal, however, have breathed life back into their Champions League campaign, and will come to Munich in two weeks time, with a huge dollop of confidence. The next game at the Allianz Arena could go a long way to deciding who wins the group, and who advances.
Arsenal 2 - 0 Bayern Munich
Arsenal: Olivier Giroud (77), Mesut Özil (94)
Arsenal XI: Cech - Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Bellerin - Coquelin - Sanchez (82, Gibbs), Ozil, Ramsey (57, Oxlade-Chamberlain), Cazorla - Walcott (74 Giroud)
FCB XI: Neuer - Lahm, Boateng, Alaba, Bernat - Alonso (70 Kimmich), Vidal (71, Rafinha), Thiago - Costa, Lewandowski - Müller
- Bayern had plenty of chances, and only have themselves to blame for not getting an early goal. Cech was good, but the saves weren't that difficult in the first half (Ospina may have let some of those in, though)
- The Reds did a good job of bottling up Alexis Sanchez, swarming him whenever he received the ball in traffic. In the open field, the Chilean looked a lot more dangerous.
- Curiously, nobody on Bayern seemed to notice the clear handball on Giroud, and didn't even protest. None of the officials appeared to see it either.
- Pep Guardiola's substitutions at around the 70 minute mark seemed to affect Bayern's play, and the confusion in the minutes after it led to the free kick that, in turn, led to the goal by Giroud.
- As usual, even against a better opponent like Arsenal, Bayern dominated the possession and passing stats, but the scoring chances seemed pretty even.