Arsenal given hope by Bayern's problems

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The Independent Football

As Arsenal digested the ramifications of their late 1-0 victory over Spartak Moscow and began looking forward to the final Champions' League Group C match at Bayern Munich next Wednesday, the most encouraging sign to emerge was the current plight of the German champions.

As Arsenal digested the ramifications of their late 1-0 victory over Spartak Moscow and began looking forward to the final Champions' League Group C match at Bayern Munich next Wednesday, the most encouraging sign to emerge was the current plight of the German champions.

A win or draw for Bayern in Lyon on Tuesday would have sent them through to the quarter-final with Arsenal. But although the French side's 3-0 victory brought understandable groans when announced at Highbury, it also led to a withering blast from Bayern's president, Franz Beckenbauer. "It was a disgrace," he said. "To play worse than that is just not possible. From the stand it looked even worse than down on the pitch.

"It wasn't Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United, it was Lyon. And if we continue to play like that, we have no chance in the Champions' League. Time is running out, it's five to midnight. Now it will be a really hot affair against Arsenal, who are very quick. And today you could see our not-so-quick defence, standing 15 yards away from their man."

That should be music to the ears of the speedy Thierry Henry, who admitted he should have been taken off against Spartak after a poor personal performance, but redeemed himself by by heading the only goal. "Bayern are not playing well at the moment so maybe it will be the right moment for us to play them," he said. "Now they are in danger [of not qualifying] and when you are scared to play, it is never good. We will definitely go there to win."

Arsenal cannot afford to adopt any other attitude, unless they hear that Lyon are losing heavily in Moscow. That seems unlikely since Spartak have nothing to play for. Bayern still top the group, and need only a draw; Arsÿne Wenger's team must win if Lyon do, but will qualify if the French side fail to take all three points.

Should Arsenal fail, they will look back in anger and regret the home games against Bayern and Lyon: both visiting teams left Highbury with a point after having fallen behind. A third home draw seemed likely until Henry's late intervention. On a night when his team's composure deserted them, a game played at the pace of an FA Cup tie was good practice, possibly, for Saturday's quarter-final at Highbury but not the best approach for the greater subtleties of European competition.

"In the first half, it was the quickest game I've ever seen at Highbury, just madness," Wenger said. Having agreed that the influential Dennis Bergkamp was unfortunate to be substituted - a decision that led to rare boos for the manager - Wenger has another tricky decision to make, about whether the Dutchman should be allowed to travel to Munich by road next week.

Bergkamp, who was upset at not being allowed to drive to the away game in Lyon last month, has made it clear that he is keen to go and, by the measure of Tuesday's performance, Arsenal need him.

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