x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Uefa Champions League: Brilliant Bayern Munich overwhelm Barcelona

Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben found the net while Thomas Muller added a brace to the scoring assault for Bayern Munich, who dominanted Barcelona from start to finish, writes Richard Jolly.

Bayern's Thomas Mueller, second right, celebrates with teammate Mario Gomez after scoring during the Champions League semifinal first leg soccer match between Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona on Tuesday. Kerstin Joensson / AP Photo
Bayern's Thomas Mueller, second right, celebrates with teammate Mario Gomez after scoring during the Champions League semifinal first leg soccer match between Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona on Tuesday. Kerstin Joensson / AP Photo

Bayern Munich 4 Barcelona 0

Bayern Munich Muller 25', 82', Gomez 49', Robben 73'

Man of the Match Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)

For a Barcelona side acclaimed as the greatest of their generation, this was unprecedented ignominy. It was a thrashing, a rout of the team who have specialised in elegant demolitions of others.

For Bayern Munich, it was a match that seemed to show a seismic power shift in European football, from Catalonia to Bavaria.

Barcelona were the team to beat. Now it is Bayern. It will take an astonishing upset if last season's runners-up are not in a second successive Champions League final. Barcelona, accustomed to being favourites, start next week's second leg as rank outsiders.

Thomas Muller, Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben were the scorers but Bayern dominated in every department. They were tactically superior, fresher and faster and imbued with immense belief. Rather than Xavi or Andres Iniesta, the outstanding Spaniard on show was Javi Martinez. Lured to Bavaria last summer, he will be followed by the architect of Barcelona's recent success this year.

Quite whether Bayern actually need Pep Guardiola is another matter. Their season has been a tale of astonishing dominance. Jupp Heynckes' side are 20 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, having scored 89 goals and conceded just 14. Having agreed a £32 million (Dh179,160,128) deal to sign Borussia Dortmund's best player, Mario Gotze, they are demoralising the rest of the Bundesliga. Now they are looking to depress the rest of Europe with their financial and footballing power.

Bayern played with discipline and organisation as well as the flair of the free-running Robben. They are a side who can win games in any number of ways. Last night, it entailed taking advantage of Barcelona's weakness in the air. The first two goals followed corners, a taller Bayern side using their height advantage to great effect.

It was the biggest Champions League match at the Allianz Arena since last season's final. History repeated itself when Muller, a scorer that night, put Bayern ahead again. The German darted in to apply the finishing touch when Dante headed Robben's centre back across the six-yard box. His happy habit of scoring in big games is not just luck; Muller has an instinctive understanding of where an opening will appear. His movement is his major asset.

Four minutes after half-time, the elusive Muller materialised at the far post to out-jump Daniel Alves, meet Robben's corner and supply Gomez with a tap-in.

There was a suggestion the striker was offside but Gomez, deputising for the suspended Mario Mandzukic, made the most of lax marking.

Barcelona were rocked, Bayern rampant.

Franck Ribery was inches from scoring after an incisive break from Robben. After another searing run, the Dutchman struck himself from an acute angle. Barcelona had grounds for grievance that it was allowed, as Muller blocked off Jordi Alba, meaning he was involved in every goal, directly or indirectly.

The German added the fourth from David Alaba's cut-back, completing the rout and highlighting Barcelona's soft underbelly.

Their reluctance to sign central defenders has long been notable. Here defensive deficiencies cost them with Marc Bartra an unconvincing deputy for the injured Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano. To compound their problems, however, they were ineffective in attack.

Lionel Messi was starting for the first time in three weeks, a spell on the sidelines only interrupted by a quarter-final cameo against Paris St Germain with only one fully functioning leg. On his return, his hamstring injury still appeared to impede him. Messi was on the margins of the game, looking short of his normal speed. And while he floundered, others failed to compensate.

The Argentine contrived to eliminate PSG on one leg in the quarter-finals. Lacking another Messi miracle, however, they will surely beat a sorry exit from Europe.


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