Arsenal will have to overturn a four-goal-deficit in the return leg of their UEFA Champions League tie against Bayern Munich ahead of the Quarter-Finals, with the 2015/16 Bundesliga champions flattening the Gunners 5-1 at the Allianz Arena, tonight.
A typical Arjen Robben goal saw Arsène Wenger’s side go down early in the contest, but Alexis Sanchez’s equaliser offered hope of a prosperous European night going into half-time.
However, a ten-minute flurry of goals from Robert Lewandowski and Thiago Alcântara left the Gunners staring at a 4-1 defeat, whereas it was Thomas Müller who landed the final blow in another sorry Arsenal performance in the round of the Last 16.
The warning signs came early for the North London outfit, as Bayern enjoyed early spells of possession and tested David Ospina from range via Arturo Vidal’s shot in the 8th minute.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side wouldn’t have to try much harder to gain advantage, as Robben took his habitual step inwards to curl an effort beyond the goalkeeper and offer the hosts the lead after just 11 minutes of football.
Robben was on course to attempt a repeat of his favourite recipe just three minutes later, but the Dutchman couldn’t spread the angle of his shot far enough ahead of a comfortable Ospina save.
Having weathered the storm, Arsenal took until the 27th minute to register their first meaningful attempt, as Mesut Özil’s free-kick was mishandled by Manuel Neuer before the linesman cancelled out any luck from the rebound with his flag.
The Gunners would find a route back into the game no less than a couple of minutes later, however, with Lewandowski attempting to take a swipe at the ball and catching Laurent Koscielny inside the box instead, as the referee pointed to the spot.
Sanchez stepped up to the 12-yard-mark and saw Neuer save his penalty before also missing the rebound, but the Chilean was able to regain his composure and finish at the third time of asking to draw Arsenal level and gift them a potentially crucial away goal.
Bayern replied through a searching Thiago pass to Vidal inside the area, as the box-to-box midfielder hooked a first-time ball back into Lewandowski’s sight before the latter headed the ball over.
Arsenal continued to go toe-to-toe in the final stages of the first half, this time attacking through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain down the byline, but Granit Xhaka was unable to steer his volley from the Englishman’s pass away from Neuer.
Lewandowski looked poised to open his account once more in the 43rd minute, but David Alaba’s cross proved to be lagging too much for the danger man to direct his header goalwards, as it roamed over yet again.
The Gunners ended the half on a positive note through Sanchez’s through ball to Özil down the channels, but the German couldn’t overcome his counterpart, Neuer, from a tight angle.
Arsenal couldn’t have hoped for a worse start to the second period, with Laurent Koscielny replaced through injury and Lewandowski taking full advantage of the Frenchman’s absence to head Bayern back in the lead from Philipp Lahm’s cross in the 53rd minute.
The Polish goalscorer took centre stage once more in the build to the Bavarian’s third goal, providing a delicate back-heeled assist around Gabriel Paulista that left Thiago one-on-one with Ospina before scoring four minutes shy of the hour mark.
Lewandowski was out for more when his looped effort pinged off the bar, as Arsenal’s shot-stopper vacated his goal; whereas Robben was left claiming a penalty from the rebound when his attempt to grab Bayern’s fourth appeared to be deflected wide by Kieran Gibbs’ hand.
Javi Martinez promised more joy for the hosts in the 63rd minute when his powerful header was denied by Ospina, but the Colombian was left with little hope when the home side eventually found a way through once more just seconds later.
From the resulting corner, the ball fell to Thiago on the edge of the box, whose strike took a wicked deflection off Xhaka’s leg to betray the Arsenal goalkeeper and add a second to his account.
Unsatisfied with the 4-1 lead, the hosts proceeded to pepper the Gunners’ goal deep into the final ten minutes of the game, this time through Douglas Costa’s tense left-footed strike that was saved by Ospina in the 82nd minute.
And when it looked like it could get no worse for Wenger’s men, it did, as Chamberlain was dispossessed by Müller at the entrance of Arsenal’s box, with the German eventually adding the finishing touches to a night to forget for the visitors.
The two sides shall meet again for the second leg, this time at the Emirates Stadium, on March 7th.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Arsenal XI Ratings
David Ospina (7); Héctor Bellerín (5), Shkodran Mustafi (4), Laurent Koscielny (5), Kieran Gibbs (3); Francis Coquelin (3), Granit Xhaka (4); Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (5), Mesut Özil (4), Alex Iwobi (4); Alexis Sanchez (7)
Subs: Gabriel Paulista (3); Theo Walcott (4); Olivier Giroud (3)