Olivier Giroud spoke of having enjoyed a “helping hand from destiny” after his bundled goal, which appeared to come off his hand, set Arsenal fair for a famous2-0 Champions League win over Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium.
The striker was introduced as a 74th minute substitute and, moments later, he capitalised on an error by the Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer following Santi Cazorla’s free-kick to scramble home the opening goal. Neuer misread the flight of the ball and it hit Giroud in the face before appearing to go in off a hand.
Mesut Özil added the second deep into injury time and the result means thatArsenal remain alive in Group F, even though Arsène Wenger said that his team would most likely need something from the return fixture at Bayern’s Allianz Arena in two weeks’ time.
“I’ve had a bit more luck than in recent weeks, so I’m making the most of it,” Giroud said. “For a striker, it always works in cycles and I know that. You can’t start doubting yourself. All the qualities are there – I just needed a helping hand from destiny, and tonight it worked out in my favour. It’s certainly not my most beautiful goal but it’s one of the most important.”
Bayern hogged 69% of the possession and they created the chances to have got something from the tie but they came up against Petr Cech in inspired form. The Arsenal goalkeeper, for whom this was a first Champions League appearance for the club, made four important saves – including two in the second half from Robert Lewandowski.
Wenger was heavily criticised for preferring David Ospina in the previous tie; the Colombian made a dreadful handling mistake in the home loss to Olympiakos. Ospina was ruled out here with a shoulder injury, which meant that Wenger could restore Cech without any loss of face and he was rewarded with a commanding performance.
“Cech was very important – he kept us in the game, and you can say the same about Neuer,” Wenger said. “You had two top world-class goalkeepers on the pitch. It was vital on both sides.”
Neuer had pulled off an incredible reflex save to keep out Theo Walcott’s close-range header in the 33rd minute but he erred badly for Giroud’s goal.
“It was my big mistake that led to Arsenal’s first goal,” Neuer said. “I think a draw would have been a more appropriate result.”
Pep Guardiola, the Bayern manager, paid tribute to Cech for a “really good performance” but he was at a loss to understand how his players had not converted any of their chances.
“I can’t explain why we didn’t score,” Guardiola said. “Sometimes, you have chances but you don’t score. It’s a mystery. In general, we controlled their amazing counterattack but in the Champions League you have to be perfect in all points. We weren’t and we lost the game.”
The only disappointment for Wenger was the right hamstring injury that forced Aaron Ramsey off in the 57th minute. The midfielder pulled up in obvious distress after a short sprint and it would be a surprise if he were not ruled out for a few weeks, at least. “He is very down because he told me that his hamstring is quite a tough one,” Wenger said. “He’s out.”
Wenger added: “You never know if you will win the game but you know that the team focus and dynamic was there. We were not at our level of focus for the first two games [against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos] because we always focus on the Premier League but tonight, we needed what we show in the Premier League.
“This can strengthen our belief and the belief of the people around us. We need a result at Bayern in our next game but let’s focus on Everton in the league on Saturday.”