Breakfast Briefing: Arsenal penalty woe and Diego Costa's late show
Bayern Munich overcame 10-man Arsenal 2-0 on an UEFA Champions League night of high drama and missed penalties at Etihad Stadium. Mesut Ozil missed a ninth-minute penalty to set the tone for the evening, as Wojciech Szczesny was sent off eight minutes before the half for a trip on Arjen Robben. David Alaba missed the resulting spot kick, but Bayern smelt blood and put the game away with goals to the magnificent Toni Kroos and substitute Thomas Muller.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was left to rue that early penalty miss and Kieran Gibb's injury, but insisted that his team should have done enough to secure the game before Bayern's goals. Opposite number Pep Guardiola was his usual cautious self despite the healthy advantage going into the second leg, claiming that Arsenal were the much better team in the opening exchanges and that he was taking nothing for granted ahead of the return fixture.
The other Champions League fixture on the night saw Diego Costa's late goal snatch a 1-0 win for Atletico Madrid over AC Milan. Milan looked to have done enough to secure a well-deserved draw as Atletico custodian Thibaut Courtois kept them at bay, but Costa popped up in the 83rd minute to power a header past Christian Abbiati, who had been relatively untested till that point.
Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone admitted that his team were outplayed at times despite the result, and emphasised the hard work still to do ahead of the return fixture at home. There was also praise for goalkeeper Courtois from teammate and goalscorer Diego Costa, with the Brazilian calling him "one of the best goalkeepers in the world" after some world-class saves from Kaka and Andrea Poli in the first half.
Meanwhile, defeated AC Milan head coach Clarence Seedorf has called on his team to believe despite the first leg defeat. Seedorf pointed to the positives during the game, saying he was proud of his players and urging them to step up for the second leg at the Vicente Calderon. An upbeat Adel Taarabt was also keen to talk up his team's chances in the second leg, with the recent loanee stating that Milan were going to Spain to score.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke has moved to allay fears regarding high crime figures and threats of violent protests during the upcoming World Cup tournament in Brazil. Valcke took to Twitter to address concerns, insisting he was confident that there would be no problems and that visitors had no reason to be worried about their safety.
More on the Barcelona tax-evasion case, as the Spanish giants insist that they will welcome any investigation into any infractions committed during the signing of Neymar. The club is still claiming that the transfer was completed with all the relevant documentation and confirmed they would defend themselves against any claims.
Back to matters on the football pitch, as Barcelona confirm that full-back Jordi Alba has suffered a pulled hamstring during their UEFA Champions League win over Manchester City. The 24-year-old defender played the entire match on Tuesday, but looks set to miss the upcoming La Liga clash against Real Sociedad on Saturday.
Michu will also be missing Swansea's Europa League tie against Napoli on Thursday, after the club reported that he had failed to recover from an ankle injury. The Spanish forward has not featured since December, when he underwent surgery to fix a problem that had been hampering him since the start of the season.
In international news, Lionel Messi returns to the Argentina set up for the friendly against Romania in March, but Tottenham's Erik Lamela has missed out due to injury rather than his poor form for his new club. Also earning a recall to the Netherlands squad is Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, with the striker's recent form for Schalke impressing national coach Louis van Gaal after a five-month injury layoff. Manchester United's Darren Fletcher likewise returns to the Scotland squad to face Poland next month, the midfielder's first appearance for his country in over a year.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli believes controversial striker Mario Balotelli can fulfill his potential if he stops wasting energy on 'trivial' matters. The 23-year-old has established himself as a key player at AC Milan recently and Prandelli is eager to see him continue to develop by concentrating on his football rather than other distractions.