Arsene Wenger blasts 'scandalous' ref but backs Arsenal players after 5-1 loss

LONDON -- Arsene Wenger blasted referee Tasos Sidiropoulos for what he called an "inexplainable and scandalous" performance in Arsenal's 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Arsenal led 1-0 at the Emirates when the Greek referee awarded a penalty to Bayern after Laurent Koscielny was judged to have fouled Robert Lewandowski in the area. After initially booking the centre-back, Sidiropoulos then changed his mind after consulting with the assistant referee behind the goal line and showed Koscielny a straight red for a last-man foul.

Lewandowski levelled from the spot in the 55th minute and Bayern ran riot from there, picking apart 10-man Arsenal for a 10-2 aggregate victory.

Wenger was furious with the decision, arguing that Lewandowski had been offside and that Arsenal should have had a penalty in the first half when goal scorer Theo Walcott was tripped in the area.

"It leaves me very angry, very frustrated. And I think at the moment, because we are in a different period, even more so," Wenger said. "I think it's absolutely inexplainable and scandalous.

"You look at what happened really, the guy behind the line gives a penalty and on top of that the red card. When the ref had given a yellow, OK we have to take it on the chin -- I have to stand up for it.

"I will take a lot of criticism, but it doesn't change my mind. I think in the game we have to deal with these kinds of situations, but that doesn't make them right."

Chasing a 5-1 deficit from the first leg, Arsenal led 1-0 through Walcott's fierce shot past Manuel Neuer in the 20th minute and had several chances to score a second before Koscielny's sending off. Bayern were then ruthless after the Gunners went down to 10 men, punishing defensive mistakes to run up the scoreline with a series of quick counters.

"I felt that we produced a performance with the spirit and the pride that we wanted. And after that of course the story finishes badly," Wenger said.

"We put Bayern under pressure, and we were really unlucky tonight because it was 100 percent a penalty at 1-0 in the first half on Walcott. Check it on television.

"And in the second half the referee killed the game. After that it was very difficult, but the referee I think was very, very powerful for Bayern tonight.

"Lewandowski, not only was it not a penalty, he was offside. And on top it was not a penalty. On top of that he gives us a red card that killed us completely.

"Overall I must say, Bayern are a good side, but tonight they can as well say 'thank you' to the decisions of the referee in the second half."

This could have been Wenger's last Champions League game with Arsenal, as he has yet to decide whether to stay in charge at the club next season after 21 years at the helm. It will also increase the pressure on him after a string of poor results over the past month. which have seen his team fall out of the Premier League title race and exit the Champions League in the round of 16 for the seventh year running.

Wenger said on BT Sport that he felt sorry that the fans had to put up with such a display from the referee.

"It's just not serious," he said of Sidiropoulos' decisions. "When you see the importance of the games and you see an attitude like that, I am absolutely revolted and sorry for people who come and pay a lot of money to watch this kind of game."

But Wenger rejected the notion that this was one of his most disappointing nights in Europe, or that the players had let him down.

"No, I feel the referee has let us down," he said. "It's difficult when you're 1-1, down to 10 men, and you have to score four goals against a quality team like Bayern. It's irresponsible from the referee.

"We have to stand up, of course, and give all kinds of explanations, but at the end of the day that is the reason for tonight's result. That was not the case in the first game."