LONDON: Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal’s memorable 2-0 win against Bayern Munich will give his players the belief to complete their Champions League escape act.
Wenger’s side had put themselves in a perilous position after losing their opening two Group F fixtures against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos, but they clawed their way back into the battle for the last-16 in dramatic fashion at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.
Battered by Bayern’s intelligent movement and astute passing, the Gunners were under siege for long periods and could have succumbed to a defeat that would have left them on the verge of failing to make the knockout stages for the first time in 16 years.
Yet Arsenal showed the kind of mental strength and defensive composure that has so often eluded them before Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s mistake gifted Olivier Giroud the 77th-minute opener.
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Mesut Ozil sealed the win with virtually the last kick and, with three group games remaining, Arsenal head to Munich on November 4 with renewed hope.
Gunners boss Wenger is confident they can maintain the momentum of an impressive recent run which also included a 3-0 rout of Manchester United.
“We were not at our level of focus in the first two European games because we were thinking about the Premier League, but tonight we had that focus,” said Wenger.
“You never know if you will win, but I knew the team focus and dynamic was there. This can strengthen our belief and the belief of people around us. We won 3-0 against Manchester United, 3-0 against Watford and 2-0 tonight. If we defend well and score, it shows the balance is right.”
Despite their gritty efforts, Wenger knows Arsenal still have little margin for error to make the last 16 and, asked if he thought his team would qualify now, he said: “I don’t know. We need a result at Bayern in our next game.”
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Although they failed to score for the first time in 13 matches, Bayern should not be too troubled by their first defeat of the season.
They remain top of Group F and Guardiola was adamant he had no reason to be critical of his players. “We tried to dominate the game and had enough chances to win it or at least not lose it,” he said.
“I like to win, so I’m not happy but we played with a lot of courage here. I can’t explain why we didn’t score. Sometimes in these moments we have to be perfect and we weren’t quite perfect.”
Mourinho aims barbs at referee
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho resumed his hostility towards referees and his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger after his team’s 0-0 draw at Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Tuesday.
The Portuguese was fined £50,000 by England’s Football Association (FA) and given a suspended one-game stadium ban for saying a referee had been “afraid” to give his side a penalty during their recent 3-1 loss at home to Southampton.
But the suspended ban does not extend to European competition, enabling Mourinho to return to the theme after referee Damir Skomina denied Cesc Fabregas a spot-kick during the first half of the Group G game in Kiev.
Echoing recent remarks by Wenger — for which the Frenchman avoided punishment by the FA — Mourinho told British television channel BT Sport: “The referee was weak and naive. Big penalty. I cannot understand what the goal referee does, because he doesn’t make a clear decision, too. And when the result is 0-0 and such a penalty is not given, it is a crucial moment in the game.”
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Rakitic double eases Barcelona past BATE
European champions Barcelona edged closer to sealing their place in the last 16 as Ivan Rakitic’s double handed them a comfortable 2-0 win away at BATE Borisov.
Rakitic had started on the bench, but was pressed into action by a first-half injury to Sergi Roberto and finally opened the scoring after a frustrating opening period for the visitors soon after half-time.
Neymar then teed up the Croatian for his second of the evening as Barca solidified their position atop Group E with seven points from their first three games.
An incredible 4-4 draw between Bayer Leverkusen and Roma in the other game in the group on Tuesday leaves Barca three points ahead of the Germans with BATE still a point ahead of Roma in third.
“It was a very good game overall from the team. We pressed well and I don’t think BATE had a single chance,” said Rakitic. “We could have scored two or three more, but we need to continue like that.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2015.
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