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Arsenal's attempted comeback comes up just short

ESPN staff
March 13, 2013
Arsenal fought hard, but eventually failed in their bid to remain in the Champions League © Getty Images
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A spirited comeback was not quite enough for Arsenal on Wednesday night, as they were knocked out of the Champions League despite a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich in Germany.

Facing an uphill challenge after losing the first leg at the Emirates 3-1, Arsenal set up a frantic final five minutes at the Allianz Arena after Laurent Koscielny's header built upon Olivier Giroud's third-minute livener.

But a decisive third goal would not be forthcoming, as a nervy Bayern side just about managed to see the contest out and continue into the quarter-finals.

In the night's other tie, a 2-0 home victory for Malaga ensured the Spanish side reached the last eight at the expense of 10-man Porto.

Arsenal battled to a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena, but still bowed out of the Champions League.

Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, manager Arsene Wenger accepted it would be almost 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 were knocked out on the away goals rule.

Bayern went into the tie on the back of formidable defensive displays and with an unbeaten home European record against English teams since Norwich won at the Olympicstadion in the 1993 UEFA Cup.

Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen had been dropped to the bench, while England left-back Kieran Gibbs returned from his thigh injury.

The Premier League side produced the perfect start 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 low cross through the six-yard box was smashed into the roof of the net by Giroud.

Bayern are not used to trailing, having conceded just 10 goals in total in the Bundesliga so far, and were soon back on the offensive as Toni Kroos tested Lukasz Fabianski with a 25-yard drive.

When Arjen Robben ran at the Arsenal defence, he was held off by Carl Jenkinson, standing in for injured right-back Bacary Sagna.

Walcott whipped over another decent cross through the German's penalty area, but this time Giroud was unable to connect as he raced in at the back post. There was a stoppage on 41 minutes when Giroud was caught by Daniel Van Buyten, jarring his ankle and knee. Despite coming back on after treatment, the France forward was hobbling badly.

Arsenal needed to score another two goals to stand any chance of pulling off the unlikeliest of comebacks, but it was Bayern who opened up the second half strongly as Robben and Kroos both fired just wide from the edge of the box. Thomas Muller drilled a low shot under Fabianski and through the six-yard box as the Germans pressed again.

There was brief respite when Rosicky was fouled some 25 yards out, but Santi Cazorla hit his free-kick straight into the wall.

Bayern continues to press as Gustavo curled the ball just wide from the edge of a busy Arsenal penalty area. Fabianski then stood up well to block after Robben had darted clear of the Arsenal defence.

With 20 minutes left, Wenger made a double change as Walcott and Aaron Ramsey were replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho.

The Ivory Coast forward, so often maligned for his inconsistencies, almost produced a moment of magic when playing a one-two with Cazorla in the right side of the penalty area, turning his marker to stab the ball across the face of goal and just wide of the far post.

Fabianski produced another good stop from Muller as Bayern again went in search of an equaliser.

Roque Santa Cruz helped see Malaga through © Getty Images
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However, it was Arsenal who set up a grandstand finish as Koscielny headed in from a corner, with a melee following in the goalmouth a goalkeeper Manuel Neuer laid on the ball.

Despite plenty of pressure, another clear cut chance never came and it was the Germans who progressed through to the quarter-finals as Wenger was again left to reflect on what might have been.

Elsewhere, Malaga's European run continued into the quarter-finals after Manuel Pellegrini's men overcame a one goal first leg deficit to beat 10-man Porto at La Rosaleda.

Isco's wonderful opener minutes before the break gave the home side the lead to cancel out Joao Moutinho's first leg goal, before substitute Roque Santa Cruz scored just four minutes after coming on to seal a famous win.

With a four-year European ban hanging over them, this year's competition is all the more important for the Spaniards - who made their pressure count after Steven Defour saw red four minutes into the second half after picking up a second yellow card for a petulant foul.

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