20th February, 2013
Arsene Wenger virtually threw in the Champions League towel as Arsenal’s eighth consecutive season without a trophy was as good as confirmed.
The under-fire manager cut a forlorn figure after the match as he sat alone with his thoughts in his room off the home dressing room for 25 minutes before completing his media commitments.
Goals from Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller gave Bayern Munich a 2-0 half-time lead and despite a Jack Wilshere-inspired second-half fight back that brought a goal from Lukas Podolski, Mario Mandzukic scored again to give Bayern a 3-1 lead to take into the second leg in three weeks.
The defeat means Arsenal, already reeling from Saturday’s FA Cup exit at the hands of Blackburn, need a miracle to progress. Clearly upset by the result, Wenger headed straight down the tunnel without shaking opposing manager Jupp Heynckes’s hand.
Wenger admitted his side will need something extraordinary to make it through to the quarter-finals. He said: “Let’s not hide the truth: it will be extremely difficult against a team of that quality. They didn’t reach two finals in the last three years without that quality.
“We have to give our best and hope we have built our confidence up a bit more, because that belief will be needed. We have two battles now – maybe the easier battle will be to get back in the Champions League rather than to stay in it.
“But we have to give everything to try to change things in the second leg.
“It’s happened to us before, to be 2-0 down at half-time. We changed and reversed things in the past, so we had examples of moments when we’ve come back to 2-2.
“The quality of my players is there, but they’re not getting their rewards. We’re not being rewarded for our efforts. I still have confidence in my players and in my team. But, on tonight’s evidence, there’s clearly work to be done.’
Wilshere leaped to his manager’s defence amid criticism from the club’s supporters, some of whom have even called for the Frenchman to step down.
The midfielder said: “Maybe there were nerves involved, because in the second half we did show what we could do. That’s frustrating. But this has got nothing to with the manager – it is down to us to perform. The players take responsibility for this, he’s been here for 16 years and done a great job.”
On the handshake snub, Heynckes said: “We met before the game and we know each other well. I’ve known him for years and we have a good relationship.’
He added: “Arsenal are a good team and we will take the second leg seriously. We can’t afford to underestimate them.
“I’d looked back at the results before the game and, yes, I can say this was a big success for my team to win 3-1 here. We had a great start. We scored two early goals and, with that result, it was very easy for my team to just play.”