Champions League: Second Ko blow

Champions League: Second Ko blow

ROUND OF 16, 2ND LEG

BAYERN MUNICH 1 (Bastian Schweinsteiger 55)

ARSENAL 1 (Lukas Podolski 57)

Bayern Munich win 3-1 on aggregate

In the end, Arsenal failed to clear the big hurdle.

Now, they are left counting the heavy price of defeat.

No, they averted a loss at the Allianz Arena, scraping out a 1-1 draw against Bayern Munich on Wednesday morning (Singapore time), but it was nowhere near good enough to overturn 2-0 deficit from the first leg.

In this context, the sight of Mesut Oezil, their marquee signing, limping off the pitch would have seemed like another episode of dark comedy for the London outfit this season.

In their failure to avoid elimination in the Round of 16 of the Champions League, they also lost the man who, despite recently facing criticism for a lack of form, still holds the key to domestic league glory.

Players of Oezil's mould are rare.

They have instincts that can't be honed on the training ground, the potential to pull off the audacious on the pitch, and an ability to haul a team back from the dead.

Manager Arsene Wenger now finds himself without even a chance to coax those qualities out of the German, who damaged his hamstring.

"At least for a few weeks", was Wenger's initial assessment of the extent of Oezil's injury.

A few weeks, in this crucial phase when slip-ups are magnified, is a huge blow to Arsenal.

A season that looked so promising at the halfway stage now appears to be heading towards the gutter as it enters the final straight.

A familiar sense of doom, grudging acceptance even, has descended at the Emirates.

If this knockout by Bayern turns out to be nothing more than a passing storm, then Wenger's task will be relatively easy. But this could be a typhoon.

They are third in the Premiership table, behind Chelsea and Liverpool, but Manchester City are two points behind with two games in hand.

Some Arsenal fans may mistake their fixture list as the obituary.

Next up on Sunday, are Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, where a fiery North London Derby takes on even more significance at this point.

HARD TIMES

Spurs are trying to breathe some life back into their chase for fourth place. Arsenal can ill afford more hiccups in their title challenge.

Then, leaders Chelsea host the Gunners, in a match which may either end Arsenal's trophy hopes or propel them back into genuine contention.

The following home game with Swansea represents a good chance to claim full points.

But after that, City come visiting, before they begin April with a trip to Goodison Park where Everton lurk.

The good thing is that Wenger has been through all this before.

"The Professor" has accumulated a wealth of Premiership experience since arriving at Arsenal in 1996.

But then, the 2005 FA Cup was the last time Arsenal won anything.

The Gunner need a spark.

That spark, unfortunately, could be Oezil.


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