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‘He was happy to be here’: Inevitable Harry Kane returns to the Emirates to haunt Arsenal once again

By Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — Some Arsenal fans might have been forgiven for waking up in a cold sweat in the nights leading up to Tuesday’s Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Bayern Munich.

Lining up for the Bavarians was the all too familiar face of England striker Harry Kane, who consistently haunted the Gunners during his nine years playing for Tottenham Hotspur.

Kane, of course, is accustomed to scoring goals in north London and ahead of Tuesday’s match had scored 14 goals in 19 games against Arsenal, plus one assist, with half of those strikes coming from the penalty spot.

Kane’s move to Bayern Munich last summer has been one of great personal success, with the Englishman sending Bundesliga goalscoring records tumbling in his first season in Germany.

The 30-year-old became the fastest player to score 20 Bundesliga goals, reaching the landmark in just 14 matches, well ahead of Uwe Seeler’s previous record of 21.

Kane’s 32 goals are also the most scored by a player in their debut Bundesliga campaign, a record that Seeler had also held with 30 goals since the inaugural Bundesliga season in 1963-64.

In total, the Englishman has a remarkable 32 goals and seven assists in 28 Bundesliga appearances so far and has the chance to break Robert Lewandowski’s record for most goals in a single season, which the Pole set with 41 in 2020-21.

He also has four hat-tricks to his name, something no player had previously achieved in their first Bundesliga season.

Bayern as a team, however, has struggled under much-maligned coach Thomas Tuchel, who is leaving the club at the end of the season.

Bayern is set to miss out on the Bundesliga title for the first time in 11 seasons, with Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen running rampant, while the team was also stunned by third-division FC Saarbrücken in the second round of the German Cup.

That leaves the Champions League as Bayern’s only remaining chance of silverware this season as Kane seeks to win the first trophy of his career, an absurd thought given how relentlessly he has scored goals for club and country.

Kane was all smiles during the warmup on Tuesday night, clearly relishing once again being behind enemy lines.

Any Arsenal fans watching the Bayern warmup will likely have been experiencing an ominous sense of déjà vu after Kane’s first shot –- on his weaker left foot –- kissed the underside of the crossbar on its way towards the top corner. His second effort, again on his left foot, was the other side of the goalkeeper but the net rippled all the same.

Unsurprisingly, the first announcement of the Bayern line-up 15 minutes before kick off drew a deep chorus of boos around the stadium when Kane’s name was read out, prompting the night’s first chants of “Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal!”

“He’s too old to be worried by that, too experienced and too much of personality to be affected by it,” Tuchel said of the hostile atmosphere directed towards the forward. “I think everybody knows that, even the players know that, so we rely on him. He’s happy if we rely on him.”

With a second former Spurs man in Eric Dier also starting for Bayern, there were certainly plenty of opportunities for Arsenal fans to boo, something they did fervently all game any time one of those two players was on the ball.

While Bayern has struggled domestically this season, the team has stepped it up at times in the Champions League and some of its best performances so far this season have come in Europe.

Ahead of the game, Tuchel sounded confident that Kane would extend his incredible record against Arsenal.

“He has thrived on it many times now so I don’t think he will stop tomorrow,” the German manager said.

It’s tempting to use the word prescient to describe Tuchel’s comments, but Kane scoring from the penalty spot always felt inevitable to both men.

“We talked today about it in the elevator,” Tuchel said after the match. “He had the feeling that we would get a penalty, I had the feeling that we would get a penalty. We haven’t had a penalty since October, so we were both right.”

After Serge Gnaby had levelled the scores following Bukayo Saka’s opening goal, the blistering Leroy Sané was brought down in the box to give Kane his chance from the spot.

Kane’s penalty looked comically easy, sending Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya the wrong way and rolling it into the bottom right corner.

As he had done on five occasions before at the Emirates, Kane wheeled away and performed his trademark hop and fist pump in the corner of the stadium.

With Bayern fans banned from the match due as punishment for throwing flares onto the pitch during their side’s win against Lazio in the previous round, you could hear a pin drop inside the Emirates.

Aside from Saka’s opener and Leandro Trossard’s equalizer to make it 2-2, one of the loudest moments of the night came early in the second half when Kane was shown a yellow card for catching Gabriel with his arm, with many fans inside the stadium waving imaginary red cards towards the pitch.

It was one of many battles against the towering central defensive partnership of Gabriel and William Saliba that Kane endured on Tuesday night.“I think he was very, very strong today,” Tuchel said.

“It was a very physical game for him and he accepted the physicality, that was very important. He accepted every challenge and every physical fight. The composure for the penalty was excellent.

“He initiated a lot of counterattacks and, unfortunately, we could not bring him into the last touch to finish the counterattacks. That is normal because he played more in a role where he dropped to release our speed and I was very happy with him.

“He was focused, he was happy to be here and it was a big ambition for him to score. The job is not done, he needs to do it again next week,” Tuchel said of the second leg in Munich.

Kane’s ability as a playmaker, as well as being a ruthless goalscorer, became increasingly evident in his final years at Tottenham.

It’s a skill he deployed to great use again on Tuesday, at one point in the second half threading an outrageous first-time pass through the Arsenal defence and into Kingsley Coman’s path, with the Frenchman not even having to break stride.

While giving an interview to TNT Sports after the game, Kane was serenaded by Arsenal fans with the famous chant: “What do you think of Tottenham?”

“I think they have a soft respect for me,” Kane said with a grin.

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