UEFA Champions League: FC Barcelona 0-3 Bayern Munich: Match Review

David Ramos

A recap of Barcelona's 3-0 UEFA Champions League semi-final second-leg defeat against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou

FC Barcelona couldn’t pull off a miraculous comeback, and indeed were left frustrated as they couldn’t even secure a victory in their UEFA Champions League semi-final second-leg against Bayern Munich. Just as they were a week ago at the Allianz Arena, Bayern Munich were simply the better side over the course of the 90 minutes at the Camp Nou, running away with the match in the second-half to win 3-0, inflicting a record aggregate defeat upon Barcelona in the process. Arjen Robben got the first on 48 minutes; Gerard Piqué’s own-goal doubled their lead after 72 minutes before Thomas Müller (again) completed the rout with Bayern’s third on 76 minutes.

Barcelona

Bayern Munich

Possession

60%

40%

Total Shots

15

8

Shots on Target

4

2

Pass Accuracy

87%

79%

Fouls

14

13

Offsides

0

4

Yellow Cards

2

1

Red Cards

0

0

After a disappointing first-leg performance, Lionel Messi was left on the bench for tonight’s crunch match at the Camp Nou – almost certainly as a result of his niggling hamstring injury. Jordi Alba missed out through suspension, while Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano were all sidelined through injury. That meant a start in midfield for Alex Song, while Cesc Fàbregas and David Villa started in attack; could Barcelona overturn the four-goal deficit, even without their four-time Ballon d’Or winner in the starting XI? Or would Bayern Munich canter to another comfortable win against the La Liga champions-elect?

Barcelona started the match brightly – albeit in a slightly unusual manner. The pressure that characterised the Blaugrana in their successful 2011 UEFA Champions League was back, but Barcelona weren’t just frantically pressing for the sake of it; they were keeping their shape, keeping their discipline so as to not allow Bayern an obvious route to goal in their usual counter-attacking style. Without Messi and Busquets, Barcelona were also operating in a slightly different formation. Without the ball, it was the usual 4-3-3 – as advertised on the team-sheet if you will, but with the ball, Marc Bartra was drifting out to right-back, with Alex Song dropping into the heart of defense alongside Gerard Piqué. This allowed Dani Alves to venture forward without fear and provide the width in a Barça attack that was otherwise devoid of a true influence on the right-wing – while David Villa, Cesc Fàbregas and Andrés Iniesta were free to drift around the centre of the pitch, searching out opportunities to exploit the Bayern defense.

However, in spite of their fluid shape, and in spite of their dominance of possession, Barcelona were lacking a little quality as they entered the final third. Passes were being over-hit, or even misdirected and the dribbling was far too loose to trouble a disciplined Bayern defense who were content to sit back and step in when necessary. For the most part, Barcelona’s final line of defense was operating a similar manner, although where possible, they looked to play the offside trap – after all, Bayern couldn’t score if they couldn’t stay onside. There was one slight flaw with that plan though – Bayern are too good to be caught out by a simple offside trap.

Sure, it was working quite well in the early stages as both Thomas Müller and Mario Mandzukic were flagged for offside – but it wasn’t going to stop every single Bayern attack, as Arjen Robben proved with a perfectly-timed run on 12 minutes, only to be foiled by an excellent recovery by Gerard Piqué. In fact, Piqué was arguably the best player on the field in the opening half-hour as he went on to stop another two promising Bayern attacks with two more superb interventions – he was doing his best to keep Barcelona in the tie, but what could the Blaugrana attack achieve at the opposite end of the field?

The answer was not much. There were moments here and there – and compared to last week’s performance at the Allianz Arena, Barcelona were playing far better at both ends of the field, but they still couldn’t translate that improvement into something tangible – like an opening goal for instance. Thanks to a long-range shot from Pedro, they came close and Xavi really should have done better with a close-range volley on 26 minutes, blazing Barcelona’s best chance of the first-half well over the crossbar. Headed into the tunnel at half-time, Barcelona still needed to score four or more goals if they were to progress to the final.

On the other hand, was that ever really the goal? Was that really Barcelona’s "target", to overturn a 4-0 deficit against one of the best teams in World Football? In an ideal world, this would have been their aim, but realistically, it was never an achievable target – this match may have been an opportunity to make history, but it was also delaying the inevitable. Bayern were going to progress to their second successive UEFA Champions League final and Barcelona were going to be eliminated at the semi-final stage for the third time in the past four seasons.

So, it was slightly bemusing to see Barcelona stray from their game-plan in the early stages of the second-half, even it was only for a few seconds. In a first-half ultimately devoid of chances, Barcelona had controlled possession with a measured, calculated performance. It wasn’t spectacular, nor was it going to turn this tie around, but it was keeping Bayern Munich quiet – or at least far quieter than they were a week ago at the Allianz Arena – and any time they forced the issue so to speak, Bayern countered by creating a chance of their own. After last week’s shambolic set-piece defending, it was a pleasant surprise to see Victor Valdés collect a Bastian Schweinsteiger free-kick, but as he hurried to launch the ball up field, Valdés gave the ball right back to Bayern who took full advantage of this mistake to score the game’s opening goal.

It was a picture perfect counter-attack from the visitors, who not only stretched the Barça defense with their superb positioning, but were able to capitalise on that positioning and convert their counter-attacks into chances, and eventually, into goals. Arjen Robben converted this chance, controlling an excellent diagonal pass from David Alaba before cutting inside the challenge of Adriano, as he has done so often in the past few years, to work the ball onto his stronger left foot. Maybe Adriano should have known that Robben was going to cut inside, but knowing what a player is going to do is completely different to stopping a player of that calibre. Defenders know what Cristiano Ronaldo’s strengths are, and they know what Lionel Messi’s strengths are, but it doesn’t mean they can stop them – the same applies to Robben here, and the Dutchman finished with aplomb, firing his shot into the far corner of Valdés’ net. If it wasn’t already, this tie was over.

Now five goals behind, and in need of six goals to progress to the final; well, the dream was over. Tito Vilanova probably knew as much after the first-leg – that’s why he didn’t start Lionel Messi, that’s why he left Sergio Busquets and Eric Abidal out of the squad and that’s why he started to make substitutions after Robben’s goal. Xavi Hernández was taken off for Alexis Sánchez on 55 minutes, as Cesc Fàbregas dropped back into a midfield role, and Andrés Iniesta was also withdrawn, making way on 65 minutes for Thiago Alcântara. The motivation was gone, the hope was gone, and with their three best players on the bench, some of the support from the Barcelona fan-base had also gone.

Bayern were on the ascendancy, ready to not only claim their place in the final, but also their place in the record books with yet more goals at the Camp Nou. Gerard Piqué’s attempted clearance sliced into the back of the net to double Bayern’s lead on the night and Thomas Müller added a third with a close-range header after a cross from Franck Ribery. That made it 7-0 on aggregate, and Barcelona were not only out of the UEFA Champions League, but they had been well and truly humbled by a better Bayern Munich side. On another night, with a full squad at their disposal, things might have been different for Barça, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. But just as Barcelona had their time at the top of the game, it’s now time for Bayern to prove their dominance – a semi-final victory over Barcelona is all well and good, but will it lead to European glory? Being honest, it’s not really any of our concern. Barcelona know what their problems are, and will almost certainly address them in the summer transfer window, but lest we forget that the Blaugrana should wrap up the La Liga title in just over a week – if not earlier. This result, this tie, everything about this Champions League campaign has been worrying from a Barça perspective, but this is far from the end for this team. As mentioned above, this tie could have been completely different if Barcelona had their full squad to choose from – add in a couple of signings, and well, Barcelona could be in a position to challenge Bayern (or Borussia Dortmund) next season, and at the very least, they will still be in contention for the La Liga title, which is more than anyone could have dreamed for as the Blaugrana entered this millennium.

It doesn’t matter what the scoreline was over the course of these two legs, I’m still proud of this side, proud of everything they have achieved over the past few years, and indeed everything they will achieve in the coming weeks, months and years.

Jugadors, seguidors, tots units fem força. Son molt anys plens d'afanys, son molts gols que hem cridat, i s'ha demostrat, s'ha demostrat, que mai ningu no ens podrà torcer!

Barcelona may have lost, but in my eyes at least, they will never be defeated. Until next time, Visca el Barça!


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