Thursday 14 March 2013
Arsene Wenger said that he was "proud" of his team's performance after Arsenal exited the UEFA Champions League on the away-goals rule last night, despite a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
"When you look at our game tonight we have many regrets about the first game"
Needing to reverse a 3-1 first-leg deficit, the Gunners got off to the perfect start when Olivier Giroud scored after just three minutes, and Laurent Koscielny’s header four minutes from time set up the possibility of a miraculous turnaround against the Bundesliga giants, only for the hosts to hold on to claim a place in the quarter-finals.
"We went close and I am very proud of the performance but as well I am very disappointed for everyone who follows Arsenal," said Wenger. "When you look at our game tonight we have many regrets about the first game."
Giroud scored from Arsenal's first foray forward after a sweeping move from left to right enabled Tomas Rosicky to feed Theo Walcott, whose driven low centre was fired high into the net from close range to the delight of the 3,400 travelling supporters.
Thereafter, the home side appeared subdued, seemingly unsure as to whether or not to hold on to their aggregate advantage or pour forward. A tactical battle ensued with Arsenal themselves showing restraint going forwards so as not to leave themselves exposed to the counterattack.
Bayern, however, showed greater purpose in the second half with Luis Gustavo curling a shot narrowly wide and Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, making his first appearance in 13 months, denying Arjen Robben when he raced through on goal and Thomas Muller.
"I felt it was very feasible to knock Bayern out," said Wenger. "We had a plan that we respected tonight. It went a bit for us on some occasions but overall we played well. The second goal came too late but we did have a few opportunities in the second half."
Arsenal defended with great spirit throughout and, after Gervinho poked a shot wide after a wonderful turn in the area on 78 minutes, they scored again, as Koscielny headed Santi Cazorla's corner past Manuel Neuer. But Wenger's charges ran out of time and the last representatives of English football bowed out of the competition.
"I felt it was very feasible to knock Bayern out"
"We were under pressure because a bad performance would have been terrible for the morale and the pride of the team," added Wenger. "The regret I have is that there is potential in the team and we are, of course, out of the competition."
Arsenal must now turn their attentions to attempting to qualify for next year's competition, which would constitute their 16th consecutive appearance in the UEFA Champions League, by finishing at least fourth in the Barclays Premier League.
Wenger's side lie fifth in the standings, four points behind Chelsea and seven shy of third-placed Tottenham Hotspur, over whom they have a game in hand. The Gunners begin that quest against Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
Bayern Munich 0-2 Arsenal (3-3 on aggrergate; Bayern though on away goals)
Malaga 2-0 Porto (Malaga win 2-1 on aggrergate)
Barcelona 4-0 AC Milan (Barcelona win 4-2 on aggregate)
Schalke 2-3 Galatasaray (Galatasaray win 4-3 on aggregate)
Paris Saint-Germain 1-1 Valencia (PSG win 3-2 on aggregate)
Juventus 2-0 Celtic (Juventus win 5-0 on aggregate)
Manchester United 1-2 Real Madrid (Madrid win 3-2 on aggregate)
Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (Dortmund win 5-2 on aggregate)
The draw for the quarter-finals takes place on Friday 15 March at 11am.