Bayern Munich have beaten 10-man Arsenal in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16. Toni Kroos gave the visiting Bavarians the lead early in the second half, and they never looked back.
Arsenal left themselves with little chance after goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was sent off late in the first half against Bayern on Wednesday evening. The 2-0 win puts coach Pep Guardiola's side in the driver's seat for the return fixture in Munich next week.
Bayern faced Arsenal at this exact stage in last year's Champions League. A 3-1 victory in London was followed by the Gunners nearly mounting a mighty comeback during the return fixture at the Allianz Arena. Arsenal's 2-0 victory in Munich only saw them eliminated on away goals, while Bayern went on to win the competition.
The starting lineups of the two sides at the Emirates featured seven players from the German national team, including Arsenal's Mesut Özil and Per Mertesacker.
Jerome Boateng, Thiago, David Alaba, Mario Götze and Mario Mandzukic all returned to the lineup for Bayern. Guardiola rested many of his first-choice stars in the side's 4-0 victory over Freiburg on Saturday.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger made changes of his own, with striker Olivier Giroud left on the bench in exchange for the relatively untested Yaya Sanogo.
A pair of missed penalties highlighted the first half action. After Toni Kroos and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain traded chances early on, Boateng brought down Özil in the box just eight minutes into the match. The Germany midfielder elected to take the spot kick himself, but his tame effort was straight at Neuer.
In the 37th minute, Kroos chipped a pass over the Arsenal defense towards Arjen Robben in the box. Szczesny raced off his line to intercept the ball, but brought down the Dutchman instead. The Arsenal keeper was shown a straight red. Bayern failed to capitalize, however, when David Alaba sent his penalty wide.
Guardiola's defensive swap
In a switch that was as much about caution as it was about tactics, Guardiola removed Boateng – who'd picked up a yellow card for conceding the penalty to Özil – and replaced him with right back Rafinha. Javi Martinez slotted into the center back role, while Lahm moved into his newfound home this season, holding midfield.
The swap immediately made Bayern a more attacking team. As Arsenal struggled to make up for their diminished numbers, their opponents grew more comfortable going forward.
In the 55th minute, Lahm laid off a short pass at the top of the box to Kroos, who curled a shot beautifully past replacement keeper Lukasz Fabianski to make it 1-0.
The narrow lead meant Bayern were satisfied to simply relax and control possession. The visitors hardly gave undermanned Arsenal a chance to leave their own half, distributing the ball at ease.
Bayern's second goal in the 88th minute was a longtime coming. Again Lahm played the distributor when he lobbed a ball towards the center of the box. Thomas Müller was there to meet it, and head past Fabianski to score his 20th career Champions League goal.
It finished 2-0, and just as they did two times last year, Bayern left London as winners. The victory gives the Bavarians an important advantage heading into the return fixture on March 11 at the Allianz Arena.
A cautious Kroos, however, was quick to draw on last season's Arsenal encounter when asked about Wednesday's result.
"It is absolutely not over, we saw that last year. Because it was still really close again," he told broadcaster ZDF after the match. "It was a step in the right direction, but we still haven't advanced."
In the evening's other Champions League match, Atletico Madrid traveled to AC Milan. Diego Costa's 83rd-minute goal gave the visiting Spaniard's a 1-0 win over Clarence Seedorf's side at the San Siro.
European football resumes on Thursday with the Europa League. Eintracht Frankfurt, the lone German side remaining in the competition, open their Round of 32 tie away to Porto.