Bayern Munich-Manchester United Final 2-1: Don't Underestimate the Bavarians!
When the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal draw was made for the 2009-10 season, many felt it was hand-picked for Manchester United to cruise to the semifinals.
They would be facing "easy" opposition in Bayern Munich in the quarters, with the decisive second leg to come at Old Trafford.
Just a day or two before the first leg match at the Allianz Arena, it was revealed that Arjen Robben, easily Bayern's best player so far, was a serious doubt for Tuesday evening's clash, as he pulled a muscle during Saturday's Bundesliga loss to Stuttgart.
Adding to that Bastian Schweinsteiger's suspension, pundits felt United would ease to a victory in Bavaria, and grab initiative.
What the match turned out to be was far from expected.
And the stats don't lie! 60 percent possession for Bayern and 10 shots on target, compared to United's five, truly reflects the kind of domination the Germans enjoyed after Wayne Rooney's second minute opener.
Martin Demichelis' needless foul on Nani, and then poor Bayern man-marking, resulted in United grabbing the lead.
But the first two minutes were just about the only time in which United threatened. Bayern dominated, and outplayed United throughout the game in a way that was reminiscent of the way Barcelona dominated the Red Devils in the final of last season.
It was the midfield battle that swung the tie in Bayern's favor. Their midfielders did a brilliant job of retaining the ball, and their pass accuracy was high.
Mark Van Bommel was a driving force in the middle of the park. Franck Ribery always looked like he was creating something, and was a constant threat throughout the match.
He got the deflected goal, and it must be said, Bayern deserved their luck.
Hamit Altintop, playing on the right flank, preferred to operate more centrally through the course of the match, but he too created a nuisance of himself, and had his fair share of scoring opportunities.
In contrast to the efficient Bayern midfield, the United midfield was sloppy. They gave away the ball too easily, and when they did have the ball, they failed to create anything for lone front-man Rooney to capitalise on.
Darren Fletcher was the only one who looked like he was trying. Park and Carrick were as good as invisible. Paul Scholes committed silly fouls. They didn't try shooting from distance, and were short of ideas when on the ball.
It would be unfair for me not to give credit to Bayern's Ivica Olic. He had a number of shots that were on target, and could have had quite a few goals if it weren't for Edwin Van Der Sar. He showed great awareness to steal the ball from Patrice Evra right at the end, and coolly slotted the ball into the net.
In the build-up to the match, from what I read on the web, many experts felt Olic wouldn't have what it would take to make an impact against a quality opposition like United.
But Olic proved them wrong, and alongside the midfielders, his persistence made it possible for FC Hollywood to grab the result.
Wayne Rooney wasn't really involved after the opener, having sprained his ankle. Sir Alex Ferguson will know that his side will have to play much better next week to progress, and will face an even stronger Bayern team, which will be boosted by the returns of Schweinsteiger and Robben.
Ferguson will have to get his substitutions and tactical decisions right. He cannot afford to underestimate the Germans' capabilities next week. With the away goal, however, the tie remains balanced, and now, game on in the second leg.
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