Thanks, London! It's Bayern a pleasure (mostly)

Posted by Susie Schaaf

Who, as a Bayern supporter, couldn't be happy with three away goals heading in to the return tie on March 13 in Munich? Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller put Munich ahead 2-0 in the first half, and despite a consolation goal by former Bayern midfielder Lukas Podolski, Mario Mandzukic scored the third on the night for the Bavarians at the Emirates, effectively "sealing" their place in the next round of Champions League action with a 3-1 away win.

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The Drayton Arms was the designated pub for hundreds of inebriated Bayern Munich support, and by the time I'd arrived - four hours before kick-off - the party was already in full swing. It would continue in the stadium, with flare(s), for the opening half. Although Santi Carzola would get an early look at Manuel Neuer, it only took seven minutes for Kroos to open the scoring for die Roten from a Müller delivery.

As I'd expected, the early opening goal rattled Arsenal, and Bayern would take their shots at 'keeper Wojciech Szczesny. Bastian Schweinsteiger fired a freekick wide, while Philipp Lahm's effort would be blocked by fellow German Per Mertesacker.

The second Bayern goal came on 21 minutes: Daniel van Buyten, unmarked on a corner kick, headed at Szczesny, who could only push out the attempt straight at Müller. Van Buyten, perhaps the fourth choice as a center-back, was a rock in defense. Jupp Heynckes looks to be a very smart man for giving the big Belgian plenty of minutes leading up to this tie, knowing Jerome Boateng would be missing both legs on suspension.

Just before the break, Munich might have added a third when Mario Mandzukic just missed a header. A dejected Arsenal and buoyant Bayern headed in to the dressing rooms with the score favoring the away side 2-0.

But, Arsene Wenger's Arsenal was not done. The second half started lively for the Gunners, catching Bayern off-guard. Lukas Podolski would pull one back for the home side, scoring from a dodgy corner call. It was the first goal scored against Bayern 'keeper Neuer in nearly 700 minutes. Oliver Giroud, coming on for Podolski, might have made it a match, but struck his first touch straight at Neuer.

Arsenal continued to press, looking for the equalizer, which began to afford Munich some space. Arjen Robben replaced Franck Ribery - covered well by fellow countryman Barcary Sagna - and played a part in Bayern's third strike of the evening. Mario Mandzukic released the Dutchman into space, Arjen setting up a Lahm cross which Mario promptly netted.

Mario Gomez came on for his namesake, and would get a shot off at Szczesny. But at the other end of the pitch, Neuer was called upon to save Jack Wilshere twice, keeping a two-goal advantage safe for the return tie.

I ended my evening in the team hotel bar, where Robben would graciously pose for a photo with me. Exultant, back in my room, I wouldn't manage to sleep until I was supposed to be awake. So, yeah. Totally missed my flight.

This away trip has been a special one for me. Where I normally fly in the day of the match, I got to spend the weekend here, enjoying both football and non-football things. Meeting my editors - in the flesh - was a treat, as was getting to do a podcast with Matt Hermann of The Bundesliga Show.

But, despite getting verbally battered, once again, by Arsenal supporters in the Emirates, it was fun to be a squealing 12-year-old fan girl for a couple of days. And a win like this is just the cherry on top. Thanks (mostly gracious) London! It's been an absolute pleasure. I'll be seeing you again in May.

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