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Feb 20, 2013

Walcott: Third Bayern goal is 'killer blow'

Theo Walcott fears that Bayern Munich's third goal on Tuesday night may have killed Arsenal's chances in the Champions League last-16 and described the challenge of overcoming a 3-1 first-leg deficit in the Allianz Arena as a "very difficult ask".

• Marcotti: Bayern the team to beat
• Brewin: Familiar February failure
• Limbert: A brutal, clinical lesson

Despite going down 2-0 early on, Arsene Wenger's side had got back into the game through Lukas Podolski's header. In the 79th minute, however, Mario Mandzukic effectively killed off the tie with a further strike which means the Gunners have to score at least three times in the return leg to have any hope of progressing.

It is not just the game which has gone against Arsenal, though, but also history. Since the start of the European Cup, only six teams have come back from a first-leg defeat at home to go through. As such, Walcott appeared to echo Wenger in insisting the side must concentrate on the top-four challenge in order to reach next season's competition.

"It's disappointing result," Walcott said. "I felt we started off the game quite well, to be honest, but Bayern took their chances. They were very strong, very organised. We came out quite strong in the second half, a lot of positives we can take from that. We thought if we can get that goal we might unsteady them slightly, which it did to be fair. We had a great opportunity to get them back to 2-2 and then, three minutes later, the killer blow.

"So I felt if it could stay at 2-1 we had a chance but 3-1, it's a difficult task. We've got to be positive, concentrate on Villa [on Saturday at the Emirates Stadium] now because we've got important games coming up.

"Don't get me wrong, we've got to be realistic, it's going to be difficult. They're going to be very strong at home. We need to score three goals. We can score goals where we can, if we work hard and do what we did in the second half. It's going to be a very difficult ask.

"Like I say, I'm not going to focus on that. The guys won't dwell on that too much. I think we need to get back to where we should be in the Premier League, we've had some very positive results in the Premier League. We need to start believing again and start climbing that table again.

"It's a difficult time for the team as well, coming back from two defeats at home. We can learn from this defeat as well. They've got a lot of experience. They just did a job tonight. We had to stay in the game and at 2-1 we had a chance. At 3-1, it's a very difficult ask."

Bayern Munich might have taken a big step towards the quarter-finals but they have not reached perfection yet, Bayern star Thomas Muller believes.

Despite being just 23-years-old, Muller has already suffered heartbreak in two finals, and he wary that the tie is not over yet. "We have not won anything by just winning a first leg in the round of 16," Muller, who scored Bayern's second goal at the Emirates, told the UEFA website. "It was 2-1 at one stage and something could have happened then. We didn't play perfectly for 90 minutes and we have to work on that.

"We are in good shape, as you've been able to see in recent weeks, and we confirmed that today. The win was not a huge surprise for me, but you still have to go out and do it. "When it is the round of 16 in the Champions League, everyone is really fired up and focused. We know how important these games are, as you don't have much time to make up for mistakes.

"I think we are capable of advancing, but there is still one more game to be played." Bayern president Uli Hoeness was also delighted with his team, and even had a good word for goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who was at fault for Lukas Podolski's goal which keeps Arsenal in the tie. "For the first 30 minutes we played football by the book, and Arsenal were not able to counter that for a long time," Hoeness told kicker.tv: "That this changed is normal but we were able to withstand that period thanks to our goalie."

German media mostly remained calm about the win. However, German tabloid Bild asked: "Queen, did you see that? Bayern: Kings of London" and Munich paper Abendzeitung just headlined. "Quarter-finals!"

Other media outlets just spoke of a deserved win, with Berliner Zeitung describing Bayern as "extremely hungry" and Die Zeit saying the win was "commanding".

Spielverlagerung, a German tactics website, called for a sense of perspective. "Bayern's away win was not as convincing as the result and media reactions might suggest," it said.

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