ARSENAL battled to a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena, but still bowed out of the Champions League.
Scorers: Arsenal: Giroud (3), Koscielny (86)
Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, manager Arsene Wenger accepted it would be Mission: Impossible for his beleaguered side in Bavaria and so it proved despite a heroic performance to beat the runaway Bundesliga leaders.
Oliver Giroud fired in after just three minutes and Bayern were kept at bay by some fine saves from stand-in goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, preferred to fellow Pole Wojciech Szczesny.
Defender Laurent Koscielny headed in to level the tie on aggregate with four minutes left, but there was to be no fairytale ending as the Gunners went out on the away goals rule.
Wenger was left ruing defensive mistakes in the first leg of his side’s Champions League last-16 clash after coming close to a shock comeback.
Mario Mandzukic’s late third goal was the difference between the sides over the two legs and it is a goal which still irks Wenger.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Despite his frustration, an impressive victory against a side 20 points clear in the Bundesliga did give some comfort to the Frenchman.
“Positives, of course, were the performance and the spirit. The clean sheet and overall defensively we were very good. We lost some balls off some situations which frustrated at times.
“I am confident we will give everything to come back next season. Our young players done very well lets finish well this season strongly.
“The result brought back memories of last year’s exit to AC Milan when Arsenal were 4-0 down in the first leg before winning the second 3-0.
“We have the same regrets as last year [against Milan],” Wenger said. “The first game we have nerves but second game we show how good we are.”
Arsenal often had their backs to the wall and had to rely on their back four and goalkeeper at times in what was an impressive defensive display.
Arsenal defender Carl Jenkinson, who played in place of the injured Bacary Sagna, spoke of his pride in his team-mates following their brave but ultimately futile efforts.
“We got that early goal we needed and we knew it would be important to keep it tight at the back,” Jenkinson said.
“I’m proud of the boys and proud of the effort we put in when everyone wrote us off.”
Arsenal produced the perfect start to the game as they swept into the lead on three minutes.
A slip from defender David Alaba allowed Tomas Rosicky to feed Theo Walcott on the right, and his cross through the six-yard box was smashed high into the net by Giroud. Bayern are not used to trailing, having conceded just 10 goals in the Bundesliga so far this season, and were soon on the offensive, forcing Arsenal goalkeeper Fabianski to make several good saves.
However, it was the Gunners who set up a grandstand finish as Koscielny headed in from a corner. Despite plenty of pressure, another clear cut chance never came and it was the Germans who progressed.
Bayern winger Arjen Robben hopes the defeat will be a wake-up call for his side as they look to win the competition for the first time since 2001. He said: “We warned each other, we said ‘don’t let them come into the game. One thing we don’t want is them to score an early goal.
“All compliments to Arsenal, they did a great job, but we are happy that we are through.”