This week the Performance Of The Week award again goes to Bayern München, who beat Barcelona 4-0 in their first leg of the Champions League semi-finals.
Bayern played with great tenacity, quickly pressing Barcelona’s orchestrators of tiki-taka; Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta. Barca could not get a grip on the game, with their passing appearing lacklustre and lacking vital penetration. Rather like the end of the Guardiola era, their passing was more for the sake of possession than for creating chances. It has been argued that Guardiola towards the end of his tenure tried to exaggerate the passing style to remind people of what he had brought to Barca.
Bayern after just 11 minutes had a big shout for a penalty. Philipp Lahm made a typical surging run down the right before unleashing a shot which struck Gerard Piqué’s outstretched hand. This was a major let off and warning for Barca. Barca did not learn though, and Bayern created a few half chances; before opening the scoring in the 25th minute, through a scrappy Thomas Müller goal. Franck Ribery failed to clear the first man from his corner, but Bayern managed to keep possession, finding Arjen Robben on the right. Robben crossed into the area and Dante met the cross, sending the ball back across the face of the goal. Müller ran towards the back post and headed into the ground, past Victor Valdes. The goal highlighted the aerial vulnerability of Barca, as well as their lack of defensive organisation. The injured Puyol’s leadership was missed throughout the game. Barca though still managed to create a chance, and once again Dante did brilliantly. Pedro played a great ball into the box towards Messi at the back post, but Dante got just enough on the ball to divert it past Messi, without putting it in his own net.
At the half-time interval, fans around the world expected a better performance from Barca in the second half. Messi had been one the peripheral edges of the game, but people expected better of him. Instead of a better Messi and Barca perfomance, the world was treated to a demolition of one of the greatest teams of all time. Barca fans will perhaps blame the fact that Messi looked very unfit throughout the game, having had just 3 weeks to recover from a hamstring injury. Bayern though made Barca look hopeless.
Bayern scored quickly in the second half through Mario Gómez, whose father is a Spaniard. A deep Robben corner was met by the head of Müller, who found Gómez. Gómez slammed home, but there was a hint of offside as he received the header. The defending from Barca was poor again, and every single aerial ball from the Germans looked very threatening to the Catalonians. Barca’s midfield passing continued to crumble, with the brilliant Bayern duo of Javi Martínez and Bastian Schweinsteiger breaking up all of the Catalan’s play. Messi still looked very unfit, and more worryingly for Barca disinterested. It was only a matter of time until Bayern scored again, especially with Barca pushing their defensive line higher as they pushed for an away goal.
The inevitable goal came in the 73rd minute, and like the second was shrouded in controversy. Bayern broke quickly, finding Robben on the right. Robben was jockeyed by Jordi Alba, and it looked like Robben would do his trademark move of cutting in on his left foot. However, Robben stepped over the ball twice and then moved the ball onto his right, knocking it past Alba. He found himself in loads of room, took a touch and cleanly curled left footed past Valdes, inside the far post. However, Alba was body checked by Müller as Robben took it round him. Despite numerous Barca protests the goal stood. The goal for Robben though capped off his fantastic, man of the match performance. Perhaps Robben was trying to prove a point to Guardiola.( I will have a massive article up on German football soon featuring why Robben might need to prove a point.)
Marc Bartra then epitomised Barca’s terrible performance in the 76th minute, with a terrible miss. A sublime clipped free kick by Xavi found Bartra in loads of room behind the defence. Bartra, showing his relative inexperience, tried to swivel onto his right foot, blazing over from close range. If he had taken the chance on his left foot, a goal would have been very likely. The miss would porve to be very costly. One of the biggest clichés in football is that: “The best teams in football make you pay”. Bayern certainly did that, scoring a historic fourth goal. Ribery found attacking fullback David Alaba on the overlap. Alaba ran down the left, delaying his cut-back perfectly for the onrushing Müller, who finished in clinical manor. Barca’s night should have turned worse with Alba throwing the ball stupidly and pathetically at Robben’s face. Luckily for Barca, Alba only received a booking for his petulance, but he will still miss the next game.
The result sees the world finally realise that the Bundesliga is a serious contender for the best league in the world. It will also lead to questions on whether tiki-taka is a dying art. Maybe the German national team will win the World Cup in 2014, Bayern have certainly displayed their array of young German talent, and now look certain to progress to an all German final.
A special mention must also go to Borussia Dortmund, who also obliterated a Spanish side, Real Madrid, despite their starting line-up costing £29million compared to Real Madrid’s £345million. An all German final looks likely now, and should be a great encounter.