Arsene Wenger hailed his Arsenal side for their performance in a must-win game against Bayern Munich – but warned their Champions League fate still remains in the balance.
Having opened their European campaign with consecutive defeats to Dynamo Zagreb and Olympiacos, the Gunners returned to form with a 2-0 victory over an in-form Bayern side courtesy of second-half goals from Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil.
Wenger named the same starting line-up that had won at Watford at the weekend, with Theo Walcott again played through the middle as the main striker.
It was a header from the England forward which drew a stunning first-half save from Bayern’s Manuel Neuer – although the World Cup winner was at fault for Arsenal’s opener.
Giroud, who replaced Walcott as the hosts looked for a vital goal, managed to turn home Santi Cazorla’s free-kick after Neuer had got nowhere near the ball having charged from his line.
Ozil completed the win in stoppage time as the fifth official did well to spot his shot had crept over the line despite Neuer’s best efforts – with Wenger delighted with the display of his team.
“We had an absolute necessity to win the game and we did it in an intense and disciplined way,” he said.
“It was a top-level game between two top-level teams. Bayern had more possession than us but we decided to make it tight in our final third and catch them on the break.
“The last part of the game where we went longer and used long balls we could play more in their half and they struggled. I think they dropped a bit physically as well but overall I think we have beaten a very strong team and kept a good level focus from the first to the last minute and kept a clean sheet as well.”
Despite the win, Arsenal remain third in Group F and are three points adrift of both Bayern and Olympiacos – who were victors in Croatia.
Wenger admits he still is not sure of his side’s immediate future in the competition with a tricky trip to Munich in a fortnight’s time and believes Arsenal still need to leave Germany with a positive result.
“I don’t know,” he replied when asked where Arsenal now stand in the group.
“We need a result at Bayern. Now let’s focus on Everton (in the Premier League on Saturday).”
Wenger’s decision to rest first-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech in the first two group games has already drawn consternation – and an impressive display from the former Chelsea man here will have only added fuel to the fire.
But the Frenchman was delighted with his number one, who made a string of saves to keep the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Arturo Vidal at bay.
When asked whether resting Cech and playing David Ospina was still a decision he regretted, Wenger said: “I expected this question in the press conference. I have already spoken about that.
“He (Cech) was important. I think he kept us in the game and you can say the same for Neuer. We had two top, top, top world-class keepers on the pitch today and that of course was vital on both sides. ”
Pep Guardiola, who had not seen his Bayern side lose inside 90 minutes this season, refused to blame Neuer’s flap for costing Bayern a result here and was pleased with what his injury-hit team produced.
“The first half he had some great saves,” the Catalan said of his goalkeeper.
“Never in my life have I criticised a player for taking decisions if correct or not correct. We did not lose because of Manuel Neuer. This is football and he took a decision in that situation – that is it.
“I’m so proud of my team. I like to win so I’m not happy but we played with a lot of courage to come here and take the ball out of the Arsenal players.
“You cannot expect to come here and create chances. Arsenal have very good players, fast players, but we were there with lots of personality and we showed we are able to come here and compete.”