Bayern Munich have struggled recently, but they laid down the law, winning 5-1, in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 showdown with Arsenal. For Bayern it was the Robert Lewandowski and Thiago show in the second half as the duo ran circles around a floundering Arsenal defense that had played magnificently earlier in the match.
The first half started lively for Bayern Munich. They moved the ball well and exploited a complacent Arsenal midfield and earned an early lead in the 11th minute from the feet of Arjen Robben. After a sequence of attacks down the middle, the Dutch winger cut inside and blazed past a wrongfooted Francis Coquelin before unleashing an Arjen Robben trademark special into the upper left corner of the left.
Bayern’s early lead seemed to wake up the Arsenal midfield as Granit Xhaka seemingly alone wrested control from Bayern. The Swiss midfielder was seemingly everywhere, disrupting Bayern passing sequences and forcing errors left and right. As Bayern struggled, Arsenal became more and more threatening as Alexis Sanchez made inside-out runs
Arsenal equalized in the 29th minute following one the oddest sequences of play imaginable. Lewandowski was whistled for a dangerous play while kicking a routine clearance as knee height as Laurent Koscielny arrived late to block the kick. It wasn’t a foul except in the most liberal interpretation of dangerous play. Alexis Sanchez stepped to the penaty spot before Manuel Neuer made an impressive penalty save. Then as the Bayern defense crashed the box, three defenders failed to clear the ball before an alert Sanchez pounced and slotted a ball through two sets of legs and into the far corner.
Bayern and Arsenal traded blows as the first half wound down. Sanchez attacked off the back shoulder of Hummels while Bayern found chances on the other end as they pushed against the Arsenal attack themselves.
It was Bayern who broke the deadlock in a big way. Robert Lewandowski latched onto a header in the 53rd minute and directed it home and then minutes later checked a run and tapped a cheeky backheel to Thiago who steamed through the Arsenal lines en route to Bayern’s third goal of the night. Martinez nearly added a fourth in the 62nd minute with a thunderous header off a corner that Ospina saved before Thiago unleashed a blast through traffic that wrong footed the Arsenal keeper 30 seconds later.
It was ten minutes of dominance from Bayern where they counterattacked Arsenal into the ground, using runs from Lewandowski and Robben to tear apart the Arsenal fullbacks and their centerback cover. Lewandowsi, Martinez, Robben, and Douglas Costa all had clear chances to add a fifth goal to Bayern’s haul over the next 20 minutes but David Ospina showed a poise in denying them that the rest of the Arsenal defense did not.
Fittingly Bayern Munich’s 5th came from a late substitute: the struggling Thomas Müller. Müller pressured Oxlade-Chamberlain and forced the midfielder into a poor pass that he was able to intercept. Müller found Thiago who juked and dished it back for Müller to bury in the back of the net.
The second leg of the tie will take place at the Emirates in London on March 7th.