13 March 2013

Arsenal 2-0 Bayern (w/ video): I'm Stupefied

Wow.

I'm stunned and amazed. I spent the last week low-balling myself in the expecations game, and this happens. A 2-0 victory over one of the best teams in Europe at the height of its powers, and we just owned them. Well, "owned" might be a little strong in a game in which we were outshot 21-4, but then again, we outscored them 2-0. There were some nervy moments, to be sure, with Arjen Robben looking dangerous all over the place in the second half. I might even go so far as to nominate a certain Polish goalkeeper as my MOTM. He snuffed out several dangerous shots, not least of which came on a Robben breakaway. He parried Robben's shot, despite the distraction of a defender sliding in front to deflect. The scoresheet may list "only" four saves, but each of them was key--no muffs, no dangerous rebounds for second shots, just good, solid keeping. Well-done, Lukas; well-done indeed.

We almost pulled off something historic, which would have been even more momentous than Barcelona's 4-0 win over Milan. To have won 3-0 on the road? Are you kidding me? We almost did it, too, and I don't mean in the generic sense of 2-0 is one away from 3-0. If not for some poor officiating, we'd have done it. Ten minutes into the second half, Walcott burst free absolutely unmarked and had a one-on-one with Neuer. The side-judge flagged him offsides, but replays appear to show that he timed his run perfectly. Later, in the 78th minute, Gervinho had a glorious chance but put it just wide under tough pressure. It wasn't a typical Gervinho miss; he had a defender draped all over him, another sliding in, and a tight angle to try to curl past Neuer. Even so. he almost put it home. Maybe he should have just flopped a la  Bale or Suarez.

In a game in which yellow cards were slung like hotcakes, at least to Gunners, there was one yellow less than there should have been. Lahm took out Cazorla with a tackle from behind and scissored Cazorla's leg but didn't get booked--a similar tackle from Tomas Rosický earned him a yellow a few minutes later. Perhaps the ref didn't want to send Lahm off (Lahm picked up his first yellow at the end of the first half). We were looking just dangerous enough that a one-man advantage might have been enough to see us nab one if not two more goals.

Lest I get too caught up in ruing what could have been, it's time to celebrate a wondrous victory. Maybe this will inspire some momentum--it does, after all, prove that we have quality. Even as Bayern got desperate, we continued to manufacture chances. When Koscielny headed home in the 86th, you could see them panic. The scrum in the net as Neuer tried to keep the ball from various Gunners shows how freaked out he and his team now felt, and the energy on our side was off the charts. Ah, Koscielny. Even before that goal, having him on the back-line was a sight to behold. He snuffed out shot after shot and closed on defenders with aplomb. We actually looked strong on defense.

When three minutes of extra-time was called, I could see the fear in Bayerns' players. It didn't seem like they'd be able to hold us off. However, Robben almost killed the dream with a screamer in the 91st that Fabianski blocked terrifically, sending the rebound out a good 30 yards. However, the dream died out anyway. Robben got away with a ridiculous flop in the corner, and the time ticked off as Bayern dilly-dallied.

Oh well.  Doesn't matter. I clearly have some taunts coming my way after my earlier declamations regarding this game. I'm gonna go ahead and pretend I never denounced this match. I might even go back and delete a post or two.

Long story short: We are Arsenal, and we are back in business. Swansea, you're next.