Olivier Giroud scores for Arsenal

Through the first two matches of Arsenal’s Champions League campaign, the Gunners have been less than stellar to say the least. Shock defeats at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos left the Gunners at the bottom of Group F and a visit from Bayern Munich seemingly set the stage for a third consecutive loss. The Bavarian club had gone through their first two matches without much stress at all, as they outscored Dinamo and Olympiacos by a combined score of 8-0. Domestically, Bayern have been absolutely perfect winning all nine of their matches to date. Even at the Emirates, all signs were pointing toward a Bayern rout.

The first chance of the night, however, fell to the hosts and Mesut Özil. Just after the seven minute mark, the former Real Madrid man cleverly received an Alexis Sanchez pass on the edge of the penalty area, but a diving save from Manuel Neuer kept the sides level. Bayern responded quickly to Arsenal’s early threat when a well-worked give-and-go between Thiago and Thomas Müller put the Spanish midfielder through on net, but Petr Cech matched Neuer’s earlier work and blocked Thiago’s shot out of bounds. The early pressure and heart shown from the Gunners was something that had been absent in their last two European matches, and hopes of an upset began to build.

Arsenal’s best chance to open the scoring came just after the half-hour mark. Nacho Monreal’s cross found a completely unmarked Theo Walcott on the edge of the six-yard box, but a miraculous save from Neuer stopped Walcott’s header on the line. A goal for the Gunners looked to be on the horizon, but poor distribution in the defensive third gave Douglas Costa a one-on-one matchup against Per Mertesacker. The Brazilian winger lifted his head up and fired a thunderbolt, but the slightest of deflections saw his shot sail over the net. Despite the great chances for both clubs to take the lead, halftime came with a blank scoreboard.

For most of the second half, it looked as if Arsenal would pay for all of those missed opportunities from the first 45 minutes. The Germans clearly looked the more dangerous of the sides, and the chances of an invaluable win for Arsenal were dwindling by the minute. The hottest striker in the world at the moment, Robert Lewandowski, had Bayern’s best chance of the half in the 75th minute after Costa found him streaking on the right wing. A last gasp slide tackle from Laurent Koscielny put the Polish striker off just enough for Cech to save his close range effort.

Lewandowski’s failure to capitalize on his chance would be punished less than three minutes later. The Gunners earned a freekick from 45 yards out and Özil’s service looked like a routine catch for Neuer in the air, but a surprising mistake from the German keeper put the ball on the head of Olivier Giroud. It didn’t look like the French striker knew much about the cross when it fell to him, but he managed to get just enough on it to push the ball in the back of the net. Arsenal 1, Bayern 0. The Gunners’ goal came completely against the run of play, and for the final 13 minutes, Bayern were going to push their hosts to the brink.

In stoppage time, Lewandowski had another great chance to put his side on the score sheet. A perfectly executed dummy run put the 27-year-old through on goal, but once again Koscielny made an excellent recovery run to put off Lewandowski enough to prevent a shot and put the ball out for a goal kick. In the final minute of the match, Hector Bellerin intercepted a Bayern pass in the attacking third and used his incendiary pace to make it to the end line. The young defender picked out an open Özil in front of the net, but for a moment, it looked as if Neuer had pulled off another miraculous save to keep his compatriot’s shot out of the net. The fifth official saw differently, however, and rightly ruled that Özil’s shot crossed the line and the goal sealed a historic 2-0 result for the Gunners.

The result in London was Bayern’s first defeat since losing to Wolfsburg in the German Super Cup way back on August 1st. Despite the loss, the German club still sits atop the group, and look like a guarantee to make it through to the knockout stages. On the other hand, Arsenal still sit in last place for Group F and their streak of 15 straight years of knockout competition looks dangerously close to an end. The Gunners will need to win at least two of their next three games to realistically put themselves in contention to advance, but neither of those will come easily.


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