Bayern Munich have demolished Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal tie against the Catalan powerhouse. The result puts the Bavarians in a commanding position to reach the final.
Bayern Munich on Tuesday made a huge stride towards a place in the Champions League final, stunning Barcelona with a succession of goals the Catalans had no answer to.
It was a game that didn’t quite live up to its billing as a clash of the titans, with Barcelona seemingly a shadow of their usual selves. Two goals came from Thomas Müller, with Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben also finding the net on a historic night at the Allianz Arena.
Bayern fans might have been hoping Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, recovering from a hamstring strain, would not make an appearance. However, the Argentine was given the go ahead to play shortly ahead of the game.
If the Bavarians had been worried about that, they need not have been, with Messi clearly lacking fitness and the Catalans woefully short on attacking ideas.
Barcelona started off playing bit of keep-ball, but there was some early attacking for Bayern down the right after just a couple of minutes, Robben firing the ball at goal only to find keeper Victor Valdes.
Much possession, few chances
While Barcelona started with the lion’s share of the possession, they didn’t look the most convincing candidates to get the first goal.
Making much of their best progress down the right, Bayern exposed Barcelona on a number of occasions - most notably when Gerard Pique appeared to handball a Philipp Lahm distance shot, an offense overlooked by the referee more than once.
So, it was no great surprise when the Bavarians went ahead on 25 minutes. After a corner was half cleared, Robben floated a cross for Dante. The Brazilian headed a looping downwards ball, which Müller nodded in for the breakthrough.
Barcelona still maintained much of the possession, although less and less. The most crucial attack for them came through Pedro Rodriguez who put the ball across the front of goal as Messi bore down. Dante was able to get it away.
Meanwhile, Robben continued to be a thorn in Barcelona’s side, threatening to expose them again and again.
If Barcelona thought life was to improve for them early in the second half, they were to be sorely disappointed. Bayern continued to push and, on 49 minutes, they doubled their lead after winning a well-earned corner.
Müller was on the far post to nod the ball back down across goal, allowing Mario Gomez to pounce and hook the ball in.
Rare flashes of inspiration
Without Messi at his best, Barcelona's response was disappointing. That said, there were the odd flashes of inspiration.
Any thoughts that Bayern might opt for a more defensive tack, though - with Luiz Gustavo coming on for Gomez and Barcelona beginning to push up the field - were dispelled when the Bavarians notched up their third.
In a counter-attacking solo effort 73 minutes in, Robben skipped past Jordi Alba to score from an incredibly tight angle. Admittedly, the Spaniard was finally blocked quite blatantly by Müller and prevented from keeping up his challenge.
The score line was already a welcome ray of light for spectating Bayern Munich President Uli Hoeness, currently thrust into the spotlight of the German media at the center of a tax investigation. And it was to get better.
The icing for the Bavarians' cake arrived on 82 minutes, as Bastian Schweinsteiger found Franck Ribery on the left. The Frenchman waited and put in David Alaba on the overlap, who whipped the ball in for Müller to convert.
The final goal capped a miserable night for Barcelona, who now have a mountain to climb to reach next month's final at London's Wembley Stadium.
"Of course, we're all very happy about the win, especially the size of the margin. We were first-class," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes. "But we know we still have 90 minutes ahead of us in Spain. We want to enjoy tonight, but nothing more."
No team has ever lost the first leg of a Champions League or European Cup tie by four or more goals and progressed. "Miracles are always hard to make real, 4-0 is a huge deficit to make up," said Barcelona assistant coach Jordi Roura.
In the other semifinal of the tie, on Wednesday, it's Spain v Germany once again as Borussia Dortmund play host to Real Madrid.
Werder's under-fire head coach couldn't steer the Northern Germans away from another defeat. The players were jeered off at the end by a frustrated home crowd at the Weser.
Matchday nine in the Bundesliga sees a classic match-up from the 1970s become a modern day classic as Bayern take on Gladbach. Elsewhere, Leverkusen host Schalke and Bremen's Robin Dutt faces a decisive game vs. Cologne.