FC Bayern München have one foot in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after a 3-1 win at Arsenal FC in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Bayern looked certain to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to 19 games when Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller rubber-stamped the visitors' superiority with goals in the opening 21 minutes.
Though Lukas Podolski headed in against his former side – the first time Bayern had been breached in more than seven hours – Mario Mandžukić gave the Bavarians an ominous advantage to take into the return on 13 March, when Bastian Schweinsteiger will be suspended after a first-half booking tonight.
The early energy of Santi Cazorla, surprisingly deployed on the right with Theo Walcott through the middle, was typical of the home team's initial brightness. Their momentum, though, was punctured on seven minutes when Kroos met Müller's cross with a sweet first-time finish from the edge of the penalty area.
Untimely as that proved for Arsenal, it enabled Bayern to settle into a characteristically serene stride. They were two to the good midway through the opening period when Wojciech Szczęsny repelled Daniel Van Buyten's header from a corner and Müller bundled in.
Frustrated by an impressively conscientious visiting midfield, the Gunners found it difficult to heed the words of their manager – "we have 180 minutes to qualify, we must not rush" – for the remainder of the first half. Bayern, by contrast, were now content to pick their moments and could so easily have gone three up on the stroke of half-time, Mandžukić heading Philipp Lahm's cross just wide.
So steely and disciplined, Jupp Heynckes' side appeared in little danger of conceding for the first time in 2013 until, inexplicably, Manuel Neuer found himself stranded and Jack Wilshere's corner was allowed to bounce in the heart of their box – Podolski did the rest.
Though Franck Ribéry soon shot harmlessly off target, Kroos chanced his arm once more and Javi Martínez nodded narrowly over, Bayern lacked the poise they had shown prior to the interval. From despondency to buoyancy in the blink of the eye, Arsenal sniffed a draw, Olivier Giroud going particularly close to equalising when he struck Walcott's cross straight at Neuer less than a minute after coming on.
All that impetus dissipated with 13 minutes remaining, however, when Lahm centred from the right and the ball looped in off Mandžukić. It confirmed Bayern's first triumph in the English capital at the sixth attempt and, after this display, they are a step closer to returning on 25 May.
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