Bayern clings on as Arsenal fightback falls just short

Story highlights

  • Bayern Munich progresses to quarterfinals of Champions League
  • Bayern beaten 2-0 on the night by Arsenal but go through on away goals
  • Malaga through to last eight for first time in its history
  • Spanish side saw off Porto 2-0 to claim 2-1 aggregate victory

A glorious failure -- but a failure.

Arsenal did what it does best Wednesday -- it went tantalizingly close, moved to within touching distance and then flattered to deceive.

Its 2-0 victory at Bayern Munich will prove as frustrating as it is satisfying, as once again, Arsenal left itself with more questions than answers.

This was the team which was defeated by fourth-tier Bradford in England's second cup competition, dumped out of the FA Cup by first division Blackburn and embarrassed in the first leg by Munich.

And yet, it is results like this one, which gives a microcosm of the frustration surrounding Arsenal's failings.

Currently fifth in the English Premier League, five points off the final Champions League qualification spot, Arsenal might not even dine at the top table of European football next season.

That makes this victory even more mystifying.

While the result should be applauded, it is Arsenal's inability to produce such performances when it really matters which rankles.

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The tie was over, or least it appeared to be. Had Arsenal turned up in the first encounter with a similar performance then perhaps the eight-year trophy drought may have been quenched. Doubtful.

It had been labeled as Mission Impossible -- perhaps the only time that manager Arsene Wenger might have regretted not keeping hold of the club's former defender Thomas Cruise.

Bayern Munich, the German giant, unbeaten since the end of October had already flexed its muscle.

Not only had it flexed, but it had delivered a crushing blow in north London just three weeks ago when it laid bare Arsenal's failings.

Read: Arsenal blown away by Bayern

A 3-1 first leg lead looked impregnable, especially given Bayern's dominance in the Bundesliga, where it currently boasts an astonishing 20 point lead.

Without a home defeat in the Champions League since March 2011 where it was beaten by Inter, Bayern was expected to ease its way into the last eight.

But football is seldom so simple and Arsenal had obviously not read the script.

Read: "Mind the gap"

Written off following its abject first leg performance and without influential midfielder Jack Wilshere, the best Arsenal was supposed to hope for was to avoid embarrassment.

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But while the majority of the 60,000 crowd packed inside the Allianz Arena might have expected a comfortable ride, Arsenal had other intentions.

With just three minutes played, Theo Walcott burst down the right before crossing for Olivier Giroud to fire Arsenal in front.

Silence -- that is apart for a small corner of 3,000 dreamers which had made the trip from England.

It was Giroud's first goal in 497 minutes, but what a time to end a drought.

Suddenly, the tension was palpable. Bayern was unsure -- it didn't know whether to stick or twist.

Read: Bayern stretch lead

Unbeaten in its past 23 games in all competitions, Bayern had not anticipated such resolve or resilience from an Arsenal side adjudged by one former player as having "a soft underbelly".

But resilience it had in stack loads. While Bayern toiled in the midfield without the suspended Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arsenal began to frustrate its opponents.

A one-goal lead at the break was deserved, but it was a mere footstep rather than a giant leap. The summit still appeared far off.

Walcott, a constant nuisance throughout, was denied a run at goal by an erroneous offside flag, before substitute Gervinho poked an effort agonizingly wide of the post.

Read: Feisty Wenger defends record

Bayern, so calm and assured three weeks ago, began to look anxious, not helped by Arjen Robben's failure to score after running through on goal with 22 minutes remaining.

Robben's failure in front of goal was symptomatic of Bayern's performance -- tentative, unsure and nervous.

Those nerves increased with four minutes of play remaining when Laurent Koscielny headed home from close-range to set up a final assault.

From nowhere, a team which was supposed to have bowed meekly and simply passed into the night was rallying.

Wenger prowled the touchline, urging his players to do the "impossible".

Read: Is Wenger's time at Arsenal running out?

But this is Arsenal -- the team which plays some of the most aesthetically pleasing football ever seen, only to fall short at the crucial moment.

That final big chance didn't materialize. A valiant effort, a noble effort, but a defeat nonetheless. It was a tease.

"It's very difficult to go out of the Champions League for anybody, especially when you lose at home, you make it difficult for yourself," Wenger told Sky Sports.

"We played against one of the best teams in Europe. The spirit and the performance was there we had a great go.

"My regret from first game is that we conceded a cheap goal in the last five minutes when we could lose 2-1 at home.

"You can see how important that goal was tonight."

Read: Are English clubs in Champions League decline?

Arsenal's elimination means that for the first time since 1996, there will not be a single English team in the quarterfinals -- a fact not lost on Wenger.

"It's a massive disappointment for English football, for many, many years we weren't use to that," he told reporters.

"It is a massive wake up call for us, if you think of the teams who have gone out, like Manchester United, City, Chelsea and now us, it is a long time since that happened.

"It shows that the rest of European football has caught up with us. "We have to take that into consideration for the future."

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While Arsenal was left to dream of what might have been, Malaga realized its ambition of making it through to the last eight for the first time in its history.

The Spanish side, which was trailing by a single goal to Porto from the first leg, claimed a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Isco and Roque Santa Cruz.

Malaga joins Real Madrid and Barcelona in Fridays' quarterfinal draw -- the first time three Spanish clubs have made the stage in 10 years.

"I always said that Malaga were not in the Champions League just to make up the numbers," manager Manuel Pellegrini told reporters.

"It would be good to avoid another Spanish team in the quarters, but we will take whatever the draw gives us."

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