In the battle of the runaway domestic league leaders, Bundesliga beats Serie A for now. Bayern Munich sprinted out of the gates and generally dominated Juventus in a 2-0 home victory Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.
David Alaba (in the first minute) and Thomas Müller (62nd) scored the goals as the German champions-elect built a two-goal cushion for next week's second leg in Turin. In brief, the win was emphatic and the margin deserved.
Bayern outshot the Italian leaders 21-7, including 10-3 on target. The Germans controlled the tempo throughout and turned what was expected to be a tight contest into a one-sided affair.
Bayern Central @bayerncentral
FC Bayern exposes Juventus FC by beating them 2:0 in Munich. Clean sheet. Goals by Alaba and Müller. I told you we could do this.4/2/2013, 8:38:59 PM
With apologies to Barcelona and PSG, and Leo and Zlatan, this was the standout matchup of the draw. Bayern, 9-2 winners over helpless Hamburg at the weekend, have already all but wrapped up the Bundesliga title. They've done it with style too, losing only once all season and compiling an almost impossible goal differential of plus-65.
Juventus, meanwhile, currently lead Italy's Serie A by nine points and boast perhaps the strongest defense on the continent. Such a glamorous matchup always promised a fierce battle, especially in the midfield. With both teams boasting so much quality there, the focus naturally settled on the middle of the pitch early.
Bastian Schweinsteiger returned to Bayern's midfield after serving a one-match ban against Arsenal in the Round of 16. But his partner, Javi Martinez, missed out through suspension, and was replaced by Luiz Gustavo. For Juve, veteran Italian Andrea Pirlo took his customary deep-lying role along with Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio in the middle.
Within 30 seconds, though, it was a defender who changed everything. Alaba, Bayern's left-back, took a long shot from outside the box that took the slightest of deflections, bounced in the box and fooled Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon before settling in the back of the net.
It was the fifth-fastest goal in Champions League history, and shockingly, both Buffon and Pirlo emerged tarnished. Pirlo gave away possession near his own box, which led to Alaba's shot. Buffon, who admittedly had to contend with a deflected shot unexpectedly, will have hoped to do better.
After the goal, Bayern pushed quickly for more. Toni Kroos, who had blanketed Pirlo early, went off with an injury. But as Arjen Robben came on and Muller moved into the middle, the hosts only looked more dangerous. Pirlo, meanwhile, was largely neutralized.
Arjen Robben nearly doubled Bayern's advantage with a volley, and Franck Ribery shot narrowly wide. Schweinsteiger then fired too high from distance, but Juve had a half-chance when Pirlo's corner set up Leonardo Bonucci for a header that flew just over the bar shortly before halftime. Even so, the guests must have felt fortunate to trail by only a goal at halftime.
When it finally arrived, Bayern's second goal came with a hint of offside. Gustavo's long shot in the 63rd minute was parried by Buffon into the path of Mario Mandzukic. The Croatian striker appeared marginally offside when the shot was taken, but the flag stayed down as he slotted the ball across the box for Muller to finish.
Jacob Steinberg @JacobSteinberg
Bayern were far too good to make that an engrossing contest. Juve couldn't handle the pressing, especially from Mandzukic.4/2/2013, 8:44:26 PM
Again there were questions over Buffon's role, but Bayern were comfortably worth the two-goal margin. But while the victory will satisfy, it didn't come without cost. According to football writer Cristian Nyari, Kroos could miss the rest of the season with a muscle tear.
On this form, though, Bayern should have enough to eliminate Juventus.