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Gunners on verge of exit to Bayern
10:29am Thursday 20th February 2014 in Sport
Final score: Arsenal 0 Bayern Munich 2
ARSENAL defender Per Mertesacker has urged his side to look to last season’s trip to Bayern Munich for proof they can still reach the Champions League quarterfinals despite losing their last-16 first leg 2-0.
Holders Bayern are now firm favourites to progress to the last eight as they took advantage of the 37th-minute dismissal of Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to net second-half goals through Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal will now need to produce something special at the Allianz Arena next month to avoid elimination, but they have reasons to be hopeful as last year they won 2-0 in Munich at exactly the same stage of the competition.
Bayern still went through on that occasion having won the first leg 3-1, but Mertesacker is preferring to look at the positives and insists his side are also mentally stronger now than they were 12 months ago.
He said: ‘‘It’s a little blow but when you look back at last year we lost here 3-1, it was a bit worse then than now, so we are looking forward to Munich and why can we not repeat that from last year?”
Regarding Arsenal’s performance, which saw them miss a great chance to take an eighth-minute lead when Mesut Ozil saw his penalty saved, Mertesacker believes they deserved more early on.
‘‘I think we started really well, we would have deserved one goal at least,’’ said the Germany international.
‘‘There are a lot of ifs and buts, we have to take the result, it’s a bit of blow for us but we have to remind ourselves of last year when we went to Munich.’’ Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger claimed his side should have been 3-0 up in the first half but felt Ozil’s penalty miss was a blow as it negatively affected the atmosphere.
‘‘Tonight everything went against us, because I think we should have been three up before they got a sniff in the game but we made big mistakes,’’ he said.
‘‘I think the penalty we missed killed a little bit the crowd and the positive vibes and after we were down to 10 men and one player injured...
‘‘So overall it’s a very difficult night but as well a night the team has shown some quality and some class. But at the end of the day we lost the game.
Asked if he was critical of Ozil’s languid penalty style, with the German playmaker’s spot-kick being comfortably saved by Manuel Neuer, the Frenchman said: ‘‘I prefer people to run properly at the ball.
‘‘Everyone has his own style and you have to respect it. There’s not one way of penalty taking, if he’s comfortable taking it like that...It’s his style.’’ On Szczesny’s red card, Wenger said: ‘‘I don’t know, I haven’t seen it again. If there’s contact I think it’s a penalty. Is it a red card? I dispute that many times but if it’s a rule it’s a rule, we have to accept it.’’ Bayern boss Pep Guardiola agreed that Arsenal had enjoyed the better of the early exchanges and was delighted to see his side end up with the victory, having not been as successful in past visits to north London when in charge of Barcelona.
He said: ‘‘Arsenal were much, much better than us in the first 10-15 minutes, after the mistake from Ozil the game was equal. From that moment we played better and after the red card for the goalkeeper the game was for us.’