Bayern Munich Threaten a New World Order with Barcelona Battering
These are heady times for Bayern Munich. The runaway German champions met Tuesday with the news that Mario Gotze will join Pep Guardiola's revolution in the summer. They ended it with a dominant 4-0 victory against Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.
Guardiola will be overjoyed Gotze is coming, but on watching his team-to-be emphatically put away the team he built, he must now be wondering how on earth he can make them better.
Bayern were irrepressible at the Allianz Arena. Their high pressing game almost completely nullified Barca's threat, while their bold attacking strokes found a dynasty in defensive disarray. They were the very model of ruthless German efficiency.
In their most vital hour, Barcelona revealed their weaknesses for all to see. A wonderful, generation-defining team are no longer without peer, and no longer immune to the threat of those who seek to dethrone them.
Lionel Messi, hindered by injury, was a sadly diluted deity. The world's best player trudged around the heavily watered turf, unable to force an ounce of inspiration from his broken body.
There would be no Messi heroics this time. Barca's saviour-in-chief could barely put together a couple of touches, let alone dance through lines of defenders and conjure goals at will. It wasn't Messi's fault, he simply wasn't fit.
But not even Messi at his most mesmerising could have altered Barca's fate before the baying Bayern hordes.
The German hosts had already had legitimate claims for a penalty turned down when they went ahead on 25 minutes, with Thomas Muller heading home after Dante had been left unmarked to re-direct Arjen Robben's chip into the box.
Not for the first time this season, Barca had been found wanting in the air.
Early in the second half it happened again. Robben again provided the cross, and this time it was Muller who headed across for Mario Gomez to tap home. The veteran striker was perhaps offside, but all controversy would be averted by what would come next.
Barca tried and tried to get their passing game together, but Bayern would not be dictated to. Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger tackled like their careers depended on it, while Dante led his back line in an absolute show of denial. Barca mustered just one shot on target all evening (ESPNFC).
Time and again Bayern regained possession. And when they did, they drove through holes and achieved the penetration Barca never came close to. Robben and Franck Ribery were a constant menace on the flanks, while Martinez and Muller made leggy strides forward at every opportunity.
On 73 minutes Bayern got a third and Robben was the deserving scorer. The Dutch winger can be greedy to a fault, but this time his one-track mind was precisely what was called for. The tie was all but over.
If there was any doubt, it was silenced with Muller's second goal late. Good work from Ribery and David Alaba made it possible, and with Muller's finish, Barcelona's Champions League hopes were over for another season.
But Bayern's hopes could barely burn brighter. Jupp Heynckes' team will believe, as they have all along, that this is their year. For a team playing this well, this consistently, anything but European triumph would feel like an anticlimax.
London is calling, and Bayern, no matter who their opponents are in the final, will go to Wembley strongly fancied to win a first Champions League since 2001.
Barcelona, meanwhile, are left to wonder where it all went wrong. Is this a blip? Perhaps it is merely a symptom of a slow decline—from the world's greatest team to just a very good one.
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