Arsenal’s hopes of securing a spot in the Champions League quarter-finals took a huge blow after a 3-1 defeat to last season’s finalists, Bayern Munich, at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger’s decision to rest a number of key players for their FA Cup defeat to Blackburn at the weekend made little difference, as the north-London side were outgunned by Munich who now take a decisive lead into the return-leg of their last-16 tie.
As a result, the Gunners have a sizable mountain to climb as they hope to maintain their place in the competition and prevent another trophy-less campaign.
The visitors took the lead after just six minutes, with German international Toni Kroos hitting a volley into the floor which ricocheted past Wojciech Szczesny after a cross from the right by Thomas Muller.
Muller then got on the score sheet himself with a close-range toe poke after Daniel van Buyten’s free header was poorly handled by Szczesny.
Arsenal were poor in the first half and struggled to maintain possession, but they were given a lifeline after the break when former Munich man Lukas Podolski took advantage of a terrible mistake from German keeper Manuel Neuer to nod the ball home unchallenged from a controversially-given corner.
Second-half substitute Olivier Giroud had the perfect opportunity to equalise for the home side seconds after coming on to the field, but his volley was struck right at Neuer.
Croatian forward Mario Mandzukic then restored the Bundesliga leaders’ two-goal cushion with a bizarre goal after 77 minutes.
Philipp Lahm received the ball on the right wing and delivered an exceptional pass across goal, which was met by a combination of the toes of Mandzukic and Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna that looped the ball over the floored Szczesny and just under the bar.
Arsenal will now travel to Munich and attempt to salvage their Champions League status and overturn Bayern’s three away-goal advantage.