By Augustine Arinabo
Few expected Arsenal to beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League, and even fewer would have predicted the game would hinge on an error from goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Although there were some tremendous performances from outfield players, this match will be remembered for the contribution of the two goalkeepers. Both Neuer and Petr Cech made some stunning saves over the course of the game, but the German’s second-half error allowed Olivier Giroud to nudge the ball over the line and give Arsenal the lead. Arsenal’s second goal, in stoppage time and scored by Mesut Ozil, merely rubbed salt into Neuer’s considerable wounds.
For Arsenal, this was a superb victory against one of Europe’s best teams. Having appeared on the brink of a Champions League exit, this win will restore hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Petr Cech, 9 — This was a match distinguished by two world-class goalkeepers operating at the top of their game — right up until Neuer’s error. Although the German’s wonder-save to deny Theo Walcott might take more plaudits, Cech made a similarly important save to prevent Thiago Alcantara from giving Bayern the lead. A second-half stop against Robert Lewandowski was arguably as good. On his Champions League debut for the club, Cech was assured throughout. It’s safe to say that David Ospina was not missed.
DF Hector Bellerin, 8 — Bayern seemed to target Bellerin’s inexperience, with Xabi Alonso frequently hitting cross-field passes over his head to Douglas Costa. However, as the Spaniard grew into the game, the Brazilian’s presence in the match waned. His part in the second goal was his most eye-catching contribution, but emerging from a match of this magnitude with a clean sheet is another big leap forward for Bellerin in his development.
DF Per Mertesacker, 8 — With Gabriel Paulista fit to start, some wondered whether Mertesacker might find himself surplus to requirements against his countrymen. But the German produced a solid display to halt the goal scoring form of Lewandowski.
DF Laurent Koscielny, 8 — On a night when Arsenal were visited by arguably the most potent attacking force on the continent, manager Arsene Wenger needed a solid display from his two most experienced centre-halves. He got it, with Koscielny making a reliable foil for Mertesacker. The Frenchman produced an excellent recovery challenge to deny Lewandowski an equaliser in stoppage time.
DF Nacho Monreal, 8 — Up against the intelligent movement of Thomas Muller, Monreal could not afford even a momentary lapse in concentration. Fortunately he was on his toes throughout the match to keep Bayern at bay. Monreal continues to impress and must be a contender for Arsenal’s most consistent player of the season thus far.
MF Francis Coquelin, 7 — With Pep Guardiola’s men playing pretty triangles in the middle of the park, Coquelin certainly had his work cut out for him. He wasn’t quite able to dominate the midfield battle as he is in some Premier League games, but he worked tirelessly to help Arsenal win the ball back and launch counterattacks.
MF Santi Cazorla, 7 — With Arsenal being short on possession, their primary playmaker was quieter than usual. When Arsenal control the ball, it is Cazorla who operates as arch-conductor. But in this match he rarely got the opportunity to set the tempo for the Gunners. He did, however, provide the free kick from which Giroud bundled home Arsenal’s first goal.
MF Mesut Ozil, 8 — Like Cazorla, Ozil is a player who is at his best when Arsenal have the majority of possession. In this game he was forced to feed off scraps but did manage to knock home the second goal to achieve a measure of redemption after missing a penalty in this fixture back in 2014. Goals against Manchester United and Munich in a matter of weeks suggest he is finally beginning to make an impact in the biggest games.
FW Aaron Ramsey, 7 — After finally opening his account for the season in the last Premier League match at Watford, Ramsey will be devastated to have been withdrawn with what looked like a hamstring tear. Thigh problems have plagued the Welshman in recent seasons, and Arsenal fans will have to hope this particular injury is not too serious.
FW Alexis Sanchez, 8 — Arsenal’s game plan was built around Sanchez’s ability to hurt Bayern on the break. There were a couple of scary moments when the Chilean misplaced passes to Bayern players inside his own half, but there’s always an element of risk involved when you have a player so consistently determined to take the game to the opposition.
FW Theo Walcott, 7 — This was so nearly Walcott’s night. When Monreal clipped a cross into the box, Walcott met it with a header that he must have thought would find the net. Instead, Neuer produced a memorable piece of acrobatics to keep the ball out. While it was a wondrous save, it was also a bad miss — more power and direction in the header would have guaranteed a goal. That sums up Walcott’s night: he threatened throughout but struggled to provide end product.
MF Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 6 — After replacing Ramsey in the 57th minute, Oxlade-Chamberlain was not particularly involved in the game.
FW Olivier Giroud, NR — The Frenchman is making a name for himself as a “super sub”. After coming off the bench to score against Watford at the weekend, he replicated the feat on the European stage after replacing Walcott in the 74th minute. The ball might have come off his hand, but irrespective Giroud did well to gamble on Neuer’s error and meet the lofted cross.
MF Kieran Gibbs, NR — The England international was brought on to afford Sanchez some rest in the 82nd minute and brought energy and discipline to the left-hand side.