Arsenal must breach one of European soccer’s best defenses at least three times to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals.
The Gunners lost 3-1 to Bayern Munich last night in London in their round of 16 opener, leaving them needing to turn around a two-goal deficit in the March 13 return match in Germany. Only twice in competition history has a team advanced after losing the opening game at home in the knockout phase.
“It will be extremely difficult against a team of that quality,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said at a news conference. “We played against a team that has a lot of class. That’s not our case at the moment.”
Porto beat Malaga 1-0 in last night’s other match to take an advantage into the return game in Spain in three weeks. The round of 16 continues tonight as seven-time champion AC Milan hosts a Barcelona team seeking its fourth European Cup title in eight years and Schalke visits Galatasaray in Istanbul.
Arsenal’s loss follows a defeat to lower-division Blackburn in the F.A. Cup and puts more pressure on Wenger and his squad. It’s only the third time Arsenal has lost back-to-back matches at the Emirates Stadium since moving there in 2006, according to Opta Sports.
Arsenal trailed 2-0 after 21 minutes following goals from Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller. Former Bayern forward Lukas Podolski scored early in the second half to reduce the deficit before Mario Mandzukic sealed the win with 13 minutes remaining.
Four-time European champion Bayern extended its unbeaten run to 19 games in all competitions. The German league leader has allowed 15 goals in 32 total matches this season and has allowed more than one goal only twice.
“We are currently in astonishing form,” Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said after his team’s first win in five visits to London. “It’s always been difficult for Bayern to play in England. This was a big success for my team.”
Success is proving elusive for Arsenal as an eighth season without a trophy moves closer to reality. The Gunners were knocked out of both English cup competitions by lower-level teams and are currently fifth in the Premier League, 21 points behind leader Manchester United.
Restless fans at the Emirates have voiced their displeasure, jeering the team after the loss to Blackburn on the weekend and again at halftime last night. Supporters’ groups also have called for Wenger’s 16-year tenure to end.
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere said the blame starts and ends with the players.
“I don’t think it’s anything to do with the manager,” he told ITV. “The players will take responsibility, we’re man enough to take it. The boss has been here for 16 years and he’s been doing a great job, so you can’t question him.”
Bayern took the lead after seven minutes as Muller’s cross found its way to Kroos, who fired a shot past Wojciech Szczesny from the edge of the penalty area. Muller made it 2-0 when he poked in the rebound after Szczesny stopped Daniel Van Buyten’s header from a corner kick.
Podolski reduced the deficit in the 55th minute before Mandzukic restored Bayern’s two-goal advantage by scoring off a cross from Philipp Lahm in the 77th minute.
“The third goal really changed the tie,” Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud told reporters. “Nothing is done yet, but we will have to score three there. When you know how strong they are in defense, it won’t be easy.”
Porto dominated Malaga in Portugal with 61 percent of the possession and a 17-1 advantage in total attempts. Moutinho got the only goal in the 56th minute off a cross from Alex Sandro.
“I’m not completely satisfied in that we couldn’t get a goal to make it 2-0,” Porto coach Vitor Periera said on the website of tournament organizer UEFA. “That would have been a fairer reflection of what happened on the pitch. We never allowed Malaga into the game.”