Bayern Munich survived a battery of twenty-five Arsenal shots to emerge 1-0 victors in the first and home leg of their Women’s Champions League quarter-finals bout. They’ll have little time now to regroup before heading off to England for the return leg, as league leaders Wolfsburg await in the match of the season at the weekend.
Timid in the attack
A story of two counters played out in the first half: Lina Magull received in acres of green but before she could find the lethal through-ball, she was forced to slow down and eventually cycle it back. A few passes later and the ball was all the way back to keeper Mala Grohs.
Not long after Arsenal hit some space of their own and progressed it vertically with intent. As Bayern raced back, space on the flanks opened up for a switch, and though the Bavarians recovered in time, a period of sustained pressure followed — a long, long series of throw-in after Arsenal throw-in deep in the Bayern half, before a Bayern defender finally hoofed it all the way back to the Arsenal keeper.
That was Bayern’s attacking game in a nutshell: chances to carve Arsenal open, just barely let slip until they were gone. Especially in the first half, Bayern were on the ascendancy but could never quite stay on the front foot.
Bayern were clearly the more talented side
Even though Arsenal fought back hard, they looked largely like a team lacking in quality by comparison — outside of stalwart efforts from players like Caitlin Foord and Stina Blackstenius. Bayern will need to ask themselves questions about how Arsenal managed 25 shots in the end, though to be fair, only three were on target.
But when Bayern did manage to get steady on the ball, they showed flashes of exemplary teamwork and passing. It was just too inconsistent and too disjointed to result in sustained pressure. In the end, Bayern’s goal seemed to materialize almost from nowhere, with Lea Schüller turning on the jets herself to escape her nearest markers and play in Maximiliane Rall. That’s the kind of pattern Alexander Straus will want to see a lot more of next week.
The test will now be to see Bayern execute control, given the game state, and far better than they did in the second half. They had their chances at the 2-0 but Arsenal fashioned far deadlier ones. How did that happen?
Did Bayern do enough?
Here’s the thing. Bayern players already looked weary from their recent games and perhaps mounting wear-and-tear, and this was a chippy and physical affair of its own. With only a slim lead to take to London, Bayern can afford to feel relieved but not relaxed heading into the second leg. And on Saturday, it’s a pivotal, must-win Bundesliga match against Wolfsburg.
Georgia Stanway, a key figure in the midfield engine room, took a heavy knock and was a late substitution as a result. Lea Schüller went down earlier, trying and failing to play through pain, and was substituted as well. Both are key pillars that the team will need to rely on not only for Wolfsburg, but for the second leg against Arsenal in just over a week’s time.
It’s time for Bayern to really dig in deep, as there’s no rest now for the weary.
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