Pizarro punishes Arsenal for 'worst performance in Europe'

Same old story as Pizarro power humilates wretched Arsenal
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The Independent Online

Bayern Munich 3 - Arsenal 1

Bayern Munich 3 - Arsenal 1

Familiar failings, familiar finales as Arsenal all but crashed out of the European Cup last night with a lacerating defeat away to Bayern Munich. A late away goal provided some hope of redemption after defensive, set-piece and goalkeeping errors presented victory to the German side. It will still take a monumental return leg for Arsenal to progress to the quarter-finals.

Belief drained from them as quickly as the environs of the Bavarian capital froze. It was, in more ways than one, a bitter night. It was also a miserable return to his homeland for goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and an evening to erase for defender Kolo Touré who has a footballing equivalent of the yips. Collectively, Arsène Wenger's side mustered little until Touré fired in after Patrick Vieira had struck a post with two minutes to go. It gave hope. This European paralysis is becoming terminal, the brittleness of their resolve fatally flawed.

The pre-match chill dropped a few more notches for Arsenal with the confirmation that Ashley Cole had not recovered from flu. He sat on the substitutes' bench which, given the temperatures and his condition, did not appear beneficial. In his

absence, and that of Sol Campbell, the defence looked all too vulnerable.

That fear was rammed home inside four minutes. A long punt forward by Oliver Kahn was misjudged by Touré. Horrendously, he headed up into the air, back towards goal from the edge of his own area and Claudio Pizarro ran through to volley left-footed beyond Lehmann from 12 yards. It was a hammer blow and all the more joyful for Bayern's most supporters congregated behind that goal.

Arsenal, with every outfield player wearing gloves, were clearly rattled. The weather, the surface, the absentees. The mitigation initially seemed to preoccupy them. There was also a change in formation. For what was his 50th Champions' League appearance, Fredrik Ljungberg was deployed in a position not associated with him in the previous 49 - namely behind a single striker, Thierry Henry. Wenger has tried out both Jose Antonio Reyes and Robert Pires there, in the absence of the non-flying Dennis Bergkamp.

The Swede had an early opportunity. On 13 minutes Reyes slid the ball through to Henry, whose chip forward found Ljungberg. He had time but chose to head goalward instead of bringing it down and the chance was wasted.

Seconds later Martin Demichelis, who was keeping Owen Hargreaves out of the Bayern side, clattered into Edu and was booked but the hosts appeared content to offer the initiative to Arsenal. Vieira - himself cautioned for protesting - stepped forward with one bold run and it encouraged those around him, not least Gaël Clichy. As half-time approached Cole's replacement broke forward, switched on to his right foot and curled a cross shot which struck Robert Kovac and skidded narrowly wide. But there was a further blow with the departure of Edu, before the interval, injured.

Having been presented with the impetus, Arsenal attempted to maintain it. Twice Mathieu Flamini should have earned free-kicks on the area's edge while Ljungberg scampered on to Reyes' pass, but his shot lacked power. Roy Makaay was similarly guilty at the other end, although he forced an alert save from Lehmann while, from the corner, Hasan Salihamidzic headed into the side-netting.

Pizarro was not so profligate. On 58 minutes a free-kick from Mehmet Scholl, just arrived as a substitute, picked out the Peruvian as he stole away from Touré and he headed in with alarming ease. Another Touré error, another set-piece blunder.

Arsenal crumbled. A left-wing cross by Torsten Frings was flapped at by Lehmann and the ball sailed to Salihamidzic who slammed it low for a raucous third goal. Lehmann, shaking his head slowly, was undeniably at fault. And he knew it. The failed experiment with Ljungberg was abandoned but just as it appeared that Arsenal could not respond, Touré gained some redemption.

Bayern Munich (4-1-2-1-2): Kahn; Sagnol, Lucio, Kovac, Lizarazu; Demichelis; Salihamidzic (Hargreaves, 75), Ze Roberto (Scholl, 57); Frings; Pizarro (Guerrero, 68), Makaay. Substitutes not used: Rensing (gk), Jeremies, Linke, Schweinsteiger.

Arsenal (4-4-1-1): Lehmann; Lauren, Cygan, Touré, Clichy (Cole, 83); Pires, Edu (Flamini, 36), Vieira, Reyes; Ljungberg (Van Persie, 77); Henry. Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Fabregas, Senderos, Larsson.

Referee: K M Nielsen (Denmark).

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