The ball was sent from one foot to the next, this long pass relay after a throw-in alone seemed like something out of a textbook. Of course, the decisive factor was her degree. Maximiliane Rall sent the ball in a high arc from the right into the penalty area, exactly where Lea Schüller was lurking. The striker gathered all her jumping power and nodded the ball precisely to the left into the goal net. There were many scenes in this quarter-final first leg of the Champions League between FC Bayern and Arsenal that were just as exciting – but this one from the 39th minute was decisive, which gave the Munich team a 1-0 win at the Allianz Arena .
The hosts had already started the game in an ambush, rushing towards the English penalty area as if a quick goal counted twice. First Georgia Stanway tried, then Lina Magull, and finally Klara Bühl – there was just one minute played. Only the yield remained meager, even if Arsenal were pushed further into their own field. “We are currently in a good mood and have already shown against Barcelona, for example, that we can win against very strong opponents,” said Lea Schüller before the game. Bayern won 3-1 against the 2022 finalists in December and have been unbeaten in competitive games since the end of November. So they didn’t worry about their own form.
On Tuesday, however, it seemed as if the Munich women had run out of breath due to the power start. Because now it was Arsenal that kept coming to terms. It became most dangerous in the 20th minute when FCB keeper Maria-Luisa Grohs got hold of the ball at the edge of the goal area just in time in front of Frida Maanum. Before kick-off, the small Arsenal fan block that had traveled with them had dominated acoustically, but after this almost conceded goal, that part of the 20,000 spectators who supported the Munich team really woke up. The arena was filled as well as in the premiere in 2022 against Paris Saint-Germain (13,000) and against Barcelona (24,000).
Whether it was because of the spectators – or because coach Alexander Straus had called the decisive sentences onto the pitch: Bayern became more dangerous offensively again, Schüller tried twice, Stanway once – and then the ball was finally in. Schüller almost made it 2-0 just before the break, but this shot went just wide of the left post. And then Bayern were mainly concerned with preventing the equalizer. They had to fight, fight, fight.
First the post helped them when Caitlin Foord hit the ball on the right aluminum post (52′), then Grohs intercepted Foord’s next shot, which was extremely shaky (55′), before she was able to thank her teammates: after a free kick by Maanum, she steered the ball Schüller headed the ball onto a different trajectory, and Saki Kumagai maneuvered the follow-up shot from Stina Blackstenius just in front of the line (61′). Attacker Schüller switched back to defender eight minutes later, again she was right on the line. And if she hadn’t been substituted for Jovana Damnjanovic in the 79th minute, who knows what else she would have achieved that evening. But there is also a second leg, next Wednesday, in London.