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Wednesday 20 February 2013

Qualification will be very tough, says Wenger

Arsen Wenger admits Gunners' European trophy prospects are slim after loss to Bayern Munich

  • Toni Kroos drives in Bayern Munich's opening goal against Arsenal

  • Lukas Podolski (right) gives Arsenal hope with a header early in the second half

Arsene Wenger admits it will be "very difficult" for his side to progress in the UEFA Champions League after they succumbed to a 3-1 home defeat to Bayern Munich in the Round of 16 first leg.

It took the Bundesliga leaders only seven minutes to score their first away goal through Toni Kroos and the Gunners found themselves further behind when Thomas Muller scored from close range on 21 minutes.

"Let's not hide the truth: it will be extremely difficult against a team of that quality"
Arsene Wenger

Though the Londoners responded through Lukas Podolski 10 minutes after the restart, prompting an improved second-half performance, they were undone with 13 minutes remaining when Mario Mandzukic snatched a third for the impressive visiting side.

In the build-up to the fixture Wenger had stated the importance of his side starting the match well but despite early raids down the right by Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott, which penetrated the Bayern rearguard, the final ball failed to pick out a red shirt.

Bayern, by contrast, scored from their second attack of the game, when Muller's low ball from the right wing eluded Arsenal's retreating defenders and was lashed in from the edge of the area by Kroos.

Jupp Heynckes's side doubled their advantage from a corner after Daniel Van Buyten's free header could only be palmed by Wojciech Szczesny straight to the feet of Muller, who poked the ball over the line from point-blank range.

Podolski strike

Matters could have worsened for Wenger's side when Mandzukic directed a header narrowly wide at the end of the first half but there was hope for the Gunners when hesitancy in the German defence allowed Podolski to head a goal against his former side directly from Jack Wilshere's corner.

Arsenal began to improve thereafter and were unfortunate not to score again when a sweeping move involving Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott resulted in a fierce first-time effort from Olivier Giroud, which came straight back off Manuel Neuer.

Neuer also saved another snapshot from the lively Wilshere, but the Gunners' confidence was broken when Mandzukic held up a long ball on the edge of the area and then met Arjen Robben’s cross with a prodded attempt which looped over the helpless Szczesny.

"We played against a good team who took advantage of every opportunity they created in the first half," said Wenger. "We had quite a good start for five minutes. You could see we were a a bit nervous, but Bayern was fully confident and we paid for it.

"At 2-0 down of course it became very difficult, but we put in a good battle in the second half and came back to 2-1. It looked like we could come back to 2-2, but unfortunately we conceded another goal. The 3-1 was a big blow for the team."

"We have to give our best there and hope everything will go for us and hope that by the second leg we have built our confidence up a bit more"
Arsene Wenger

The Frenchman added that overturning their aggregate deficit in Munich in three weeks' time will now be a tall order. "Let's not hide the truth: it will be extremely difficult against a team of that quality," he said. "They didn't play two [Champions League] finals in the last three years without that quality that we have seen tonight.

"We have to give our best there and hope that everything will go for us and hope that by the second leg we have built our confidence up a bit more to go into the game with the belief that will be needed."

Arsenal will look to restore confidence on Saturday when they will hope to avoid suffering a third successive home defeat in all competitions in the space of eight days against Aston Villa in the Barclays Premier League.

In the evening's other Champions League encounter FC Porto edged a home victory against Malaga, thanks to Joao Moutinho's solitary strike.

The match was officiated by an English team of Mark Cattenberg as referee, with assistance from Simon Beck, Stuart Burt, Simon Long, Lee Probert and Mike Dean.  

UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first-leg results/fixtures

Tuesday 19 February
Arsenal 1-3 Bayern Munich
Porto 1-0 Malaga

Wednesday 20 February
AC Milan v Barcelona
Galatasaray v Schalke

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Key Points

  • Arsenal lose 3-1 at home to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16
  • Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Mario Mandzukic strike as Lukas Podolski scores for Gunners
  • Manager Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal face a mountain to climb in the second leg in Munich