There were talks of a magical comeback at the Camp Nou. There would be a bigger pitch, a fitter Messi and the passionate Catalan crowd backing them to overturn an improbably 0-4 deficit against one of the tournament favourites. But what transpired on the pitch in Spain was a submission to the ruthless German machine which is Bayern Munich. Barcelona were outplayed, outmuscled and outrun in every area of the pitch as the final score read 0-3 to the Germans. Read it again if you don’t believe it as such a scoreline was never associated with Barcelona on the receiving end.
They had no one to blame but themselves. They turned to the debatable decisions that went against them in Munich, but here there were none. Lionel Messi being benched was seen as half the match being won by Bayern. But to say that it was Messi’s absence that gifted the Roten the victory is an insult to their superiority displayed over the two legs. Goal takes you through some aspects of the game that helped Jupp Heynckes’ team reach successive Champions League finals.
Bayern wingers dominate proceedings
They did it against Juventus and repeated it against Barcelona. The Bavarians identified that they would face stiff opposition if they attempted to play their way through the middle of the pitch. You are being faced with the quality of Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. What do you do? Bypass them!!
Bayern Munich is a side that has some exceptional wingers in Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller, all of whom are known for their tremendous work rate. Their ability on the ball ensures that space opens up between the opposition centre-backs and the full-backs to allow their more creative colleagues to work their magic. It is a reason why 79% of their overall play revolves around the flanks. And why not! With the quality of Phillip Lahm and David Alaba backing up their wingers, it is not a surprise to see such statistics crop up.
|The Flying Dutchman was in his element in Spain|
However in Catalunya, it was the wingers’ show all round. Ribery made Dani Alves’ life a misery and Robben pushed Adriano deeper into his own half. All of Bayern’s goals came as a result of some brilliant work down the flanks. With the midfield pivot of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez excellent distributors of the ball, the wingers were in the thick of the action over the course of 90 minutes.
David Alaba’s glorious cross-field pass in the second half from a botched Victor Valdes clearance found Robben on the right who executed a move that normally everyone would assume will end up with the ball being in the top tier. Not this time though!!
The Flying Dutchman cut inside his favourite left foot and fired an unstoppable shot past Valdes in goal. The tie which entertained possibilities of an improbable comeback from the Catalans was done and dusted.
The Germans weren’t done though. They wanted to assert their dominance in Spain too. Two more goals came which had the wingers contributing heavily. Ribery was the chief architect on both occasions as his cross was turned into his own net by Gerard Pique who could have given all his money and fame to melt on the spot. The Frenchman was not done for the night. Barca were being cut to pieces and Ribery found Muller on the far post who rose brilliantly to head home Bayern’s third.
Dante's absence was never felt
One of the key reasons for Bayern’s exceptional defensive record this year has been their signing of Brazilian centre-back Dante from Borussia Monchengladbach. The 29-year old was a revelation for the Foals last year along with Marco Reus. The Bavarians’ defence needed attention after the heartbreak in Munich in the 2012 Champions League final when Didier Drogba rose to head home Chelsea’s equalizer when all the odds were for a Bayern win.
The Brazilian’s partnership with Daniel van Buyten/Jerome Boateng has been nothing short of phenomenal. 8 goals conceded in 23 away games in all competitions is a statistic that proves the value of the signing. His reading of the game and aerial prowess were for all to see in the first leg in Munich against Barcelona. It was his assist from a header that allowed Thomas Muller to open the floodgates. Soon after that he demonstrated his awareness in the 18-yard box when he was the sole obstacle that prevented Barcelona from scoring an immediate equalizer.
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Dante contracted a flu ahead of the second leg in Spain which prompted Heynckes to start Boateng alongside van Buyten. Sadly for Barcelona there was no change in fortunes as the duo put on a commanding performance to keep Iniesta and co at bay. Aerially there was barely any threat as the Catalans stuck to their style despite it not yielding any results.
True, the Bavarians’ efficient midfield pivot of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez hunted in packs to shut down any Barcelona attacks, but Boateng and van Buyten were at hand to pour water on any Catalan activity in the final third of the pitch.
You wanted versatility Pep? Mario has it
A highlight of Bayern’s victory over Juventus in the quarter-finals was the different role that Mario Mandzukic played in addition to his role as central striker. The 26-year old Croatian dropped deeper into midfield to hassle Andrea Pirlo off the ball thereby denying the former Milan man time to pick a pass.
Mario Gomez performed the role with aplomb in the first leg in Munich against Barcelona to good effect keeping Sergio Busquets from making a telling pass into the final third. However he is not the most effective when he drifts wide which is essential in a fluid system like Bayern.
|Bayern's Super Mario was all over the pitch
With the Germans holding a 0-4 advantage into the second leg, Mandzukic, who was suspended for the first leg, just showed incoming coach Pep Guardiola how versatile a striker he was. The former Wolfsburg man dropped deep, drifted wide and won aerial duels with utmost ease as he allowed his teammates to get into the game and trouble a shaky Barcelona backline.
His aerial duels with Marc Bartra were a no contest as he came out on top everytime the ball was punted forward. With Pep Guardiola having secured Mario Gotze and believed to be interested in signing Liverpool’s Luis Suarez for his ability to play anywhere in the attacking third, perhaps he would be forced into a rethink after Mandzukic’s performances over the last few games.
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