Barcelona’s unbeaten start to the season has come to an end thanks to a painful 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in their second Champions League group stage match. Barça were the better team for most of the night and should have gotten a lot more from the game, but a nightmare five-minute sequence in the second half led to a defeat they definitely didn’t deserve.
Bayern dominated the first five minutes of the game to such a degree that Barça fans were surely worried. The home team pressed high up the pitch and suffocated the Blaugrana with their intensity going forward, but they didn’t create a real chance and the visitors survived the expected early storm.
After the first five minutes, Barça began to control the game by patient possession, very good movement up front and effective high pressing to win the ball from Bayern in dangerous positions.
The Catalans had four big moments that could have easily led to a goal: one was a shot from Pedri saved by Manuel Neuer, two came from Lewandowski with a volley that went just over the bar and a header inside the six-yard area that hit Neuer in the face, and Raphinha fired agonizingly wide from outside the box.
Bayern had to resort to defending deep inside their half and trying to score on the counter, and their best chance came on a shot from Marcel Sabitzer that went just wide, but the home team didn’t truly threaten the Barça goal and were very lucky not to concede just before halftime when Alphonso Davies pushed Ousmane Dembélé inside the box. It was a clear penalty, but both the referee and VAR somehow saw nothing wrong on the play.
At halftime, Barça were not only competing against one of the best teams in Europe. They were outplaying them. On the road. Could they keep up the good work and finish the job in the second half?
Bayern were on the ropes at halftime but they quickly showed their strength in the early minutes of the second half: substitute Leon Goretzka forced a big save from Marc-André ter Stegen and won Bayern a corner, which Joshua Kimmich took and found Lucas Hernández who was all alone at the near post after getting away from Marcos Alonso to head home the opener.
Scoring against the run of play was all Bayern needed to rediscover their most devastating version, and they quickly doubled the lead when Leroy Sané ran through the entire Barça defense and passed the ball into the net.
Barça had a half-hour to try and get back to what they did so well in the first half but they were visibly shaken by the two goals and lost easy balls against the Bayern press time and time again, leading to dangerous chances for the home team.
Slowly but surely, however, Barça started to dominate the ball once again and nearly made it 2-1 when Lewandowski found Pedri all alone in front of Neuer, but the Spaniard’s chip over the keeper somehow hit the post and went out. Barça continued to attack and look to get back in the game, but it just wasn’t their night and the Blaugrana were unable to find the back of the net.
The final whistle came to end Barça’s unbeaten start to the season, and this is a really disappointing loss especially because of how well the team played. The first half was sensational and on most nights they would have scored at least two goals which would have totally changed the game, but football can be cruel like that.
Still there are plenty of reasons to be encouraged, and Barça proved they can compete against Europe’s best. Better finishing and a little more luck and this would have been a night to remember.
Bayern: Neuer; Pavard (Mazraoui 21’), Upamecano, Hernández, Davies; Kimmich, Sabitzer (Goretzka 46’); Sané (Tel 80’), Musiala (Gravenberch 80’), Mané (Gnabry 70’); Müller
Goals: Hernández (50’), Sané (54’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen (Eric 70’), Alonso; Gavi (De Jong 61’), Busquets (Kessie 80’), Pedri; Raphinha (Ferran 61’), Lewandowski, Dembélé (Ansu Fati 80’)