The Tuesday meeting of titans FC Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona created an atmosphere of anticipation worldwide, pitting two clubs that had only lost a combined three matches in domestic play this year, both loaded with talent and intention. But Bayern Munich proved themselves, at least on this day, the much superior side, as they perfectly executed in attack and on defense to humble the mighty visitors 4-0.
As if this Champions League matchup wasn’t huge enough, featuring the two best clubs in the world, there were myriad subplots…..the surprising announcement that Bayern Munich had signed young superstar Mario Götze away from the other Bundesliga heavyweight, Borussia Dortmund, on the eve of both clubs’ CL semifinal matches; the shadow of former Barcelona and future Bayern coach Pep Guardiola looming over the match with current Bayern maestro Jupp Heynckes’ bristling under the suggestion that he seek Guardiola’s advice on preparing for the Catalan club; and the insertion into the starting Barca lineup of Lionel Messi, the world’s greatest, who has been suffering from a hamstring injury. Add to this the battle for supremacy in this Germany versus Spain semifinal round, and one had the complete makings for a story almost bigger than the contest itself on the pitch.
But the actual game equaled the hype and anticipation, as Jupp Heynckes’ Bavarians were dominant from the get-go, embarrassing the proud Catalans in a performance that will resonate as long as there is a Champions League. Rarely has a club of Barcelona’s tradition and class maintained 63% of possession in a contest but otherwise been so thoroughly undone.
If the Bayern players were distracted by the news of the Götze signing that just broke hours before kickoff Tuesday, they certainly did not give in. Missing star striker Mario Mandžukić to yellow card suspension, Heynckes inserted one of his other world-class strikers, Mario Gomez, with Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller in attack and Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez shielding the back four. Barcelona head man Tito Vilanova made the decision to start the hurting Messi, who hurt his hamstring in the first leg quarterfinal match against Paris Saint Germain but was influential as a substitute against PSG in the second leg on April 10, helping Barcelona get past the French side into the semifinals. Messi had not played in Barcelona’s two ensuing La Liga matches. Vilanova, who succeeded Guardiola at Barcelona’s helm, was also without the services of defenders Carlos Puyol and Javier Mascherano.
All the pregame hoopla finally gave way to the game, and Bayern Munich immediately demonstrated their intentions, as Arjen Robben put a shot on goal barely ninety seconds after kickoff. Although Victor Valdes easily made the save, it was evident that Bayern were not suffering from any distractions. Two minutes later, the home side had earned the first of the eleven corners they would accummulate over ninety minutes, although Franck Ribery’s attempt was headed away from danger.
Barcelona couldn’t keep dodging the Bayern onslaught forever, though, and barely into the 25th minute Bayern grabbed the lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Another Ribery corner kick was headed away, but came to Arjen Robben at the far corner of the 18 yard box. He slipped the ball forward to Thomas Müller, who returned the ball to Robben. The Dutch international launched a corner to the far post that center back Dante headed across the goalmouth to the awaiting Müller, who easily nodded in to put the Bavarians a goal up.
Dante demonstrated his importance to Bayern’s treble hopes again just before the half hour mark. A pass from the magical Iniesta went diagonally from the left to Pedro, who delivered an angled low cross towards the path of Messi on the far post. But the ever-present Brazilian central-defender slid towards the goalmouth and nicked the ball away from Messi’s stride as the ball harmlessly went out for a corner kick that went for naught. Although Bayern failed to add another first half score, they appeared totally in control of the match, despite Barca’s superior amount of possession.
Second Half Onslaught
Bayern were easily the better team during the first 45 minutes. In the ensuing 45 minutes, they ratcheted up their performance to perfection.
Only four minutes after intermission, Bayern doubled their lead. A corner kick by Robben was met at the far post by Müller, who headed across goal to Mario Gomez waiting at the door. Gomez swiveled and plucked the ball from the air with his left instep, netting from only a few feet away.
The Bavarians didn’t let up. Chances by Ribery and Robben went wide before the two combined for another goal, with Bastian Schweinsteiger playing the middle man. Ribery intercepted a pass deep in Bayern territory and dribbled up the field in the 73rd minute before centering pass to Schweinsteiger, who passed to Robben at the corner of the 18 yard box. The veteran winger worked his way towards goal, and pulled off a shot from a tough angle that Valdes got a hand on but could not deter. The final goal of the match arrived less than ten minutes later, when Schweinsteiger played a ball to Ribery on the left, who fed an overlapping David Alaba. The Austrian youngster threaded an inch-perfect pass ahead to Müller, who again scored from close range. The final minutes added further embarrassment to the Catalans, as a frustrated Jordi Alba flipped a ball that had rolled out-of-bounds into Robben’s face. The meltdown resulted in a yellow card for Alba, who will now miss the second leg in Barcelona from yellow card accumulation.
Back in November, the Fanatic published an article proclaiming Bayern Munich as the best club in the world, citing their record-setting assault on the Bundesliga title and their unimaginable stinginess in allowing goals. Almost five months later, Bayern have done nothing but build upon the promise displayed in the Hinrunde to arrive at a transcendent moment in the iconic club’s history.
Tuesday’s margin of victory over Barcelona at the Allianz makes it difficult to envision a successful comeback for Vilanova’s side at the Camp Nou on May 1. With no away goal to stand on, the Catalans will need a miracle of the proportions fashioned by Borussia Dortmund in their amazing win over Malaga recently. Odds are, it’s not going to happen. Bayern may still have a touch of the FC Hollywood days with the controversial signing of Gotze and the troubles of Uli Hoeness. but this is a squad remarkable in purpose and focus.
While Müller was an obvious candidate for Tuesday’s Man of the Match with two goals and an assist, the Bavarians’ performance was truly a team effort, with much credit pointed to outgoing Coach Jupp Heynckes. Ribery, Müller and Robben helped out a great deal in defense while creating attacking threat, while high-priced Javi Martinez was everywhere and the irrepressible Dante always on hand to negate the Barca attack when he wasn’t causing danger on setpieces into the visitor’s box. Super Mario Gomez did what he does best … score, giving the amazing marksman an incredible six goals over 150 minutes on the pitch in his last three appearances, two of them tournament semifinal matches. Not bad for a second-choice striker. Schweinsteiger helped create two goals while captain Philipp Lahm was his ever-solid self and 20 year-old Alaba assisted on the last goal. Jerome Boateng partnered a solid defensive center with Dante — it wasn’t too long ago that anxiety was a common emotion among Bayern supporters when discussing their center backline.
Having already won the Bundesliga in record time, Bayern Munich are now only three games from the treble. After an utterly convincing semifinal first leg victory against the world’s most highly regarded club, it’s full steam ahead for the Bavarians towards mission possible and their first-ever treble.
FC Bayern: Neuer – Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba – Martinez, Schweinsteiger – Robben, Müller (Pizarro 83′), Ribery (Shaqiri 89′) – Gomez (Gustavo 71′)
FC Barcelona: Valdes, Alves, Piqué, Bartra, Jordi Alba – Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta – Alexis, Messi, Pedro (Villa 83′)
Header courtesy of facbeook.com/FCBayern