15 Aug Bayern’s brilliance, not Barca collapse, the story in historic Champions League contest
The stadium — three-quarters empty, one-quarter stuffed with substitutes, coaches and media on the type of inhabitants density you would possibly discover in Alaska — should have made it worse. Offended boos and cruel abuse, anguished howls and despairing cries… nevertheless disagreeable, they let you know you are alive. They’re the slap to the face or pinch of the cheek that generate ache and adrenaline to shake the numbness and activate no matter combat is left. The surreal near-emptiness of the Estadio da Luz should have sown some seed of doubt within the minds of Barcelona gamers as they went 4-1 down with simply over half an hour gone towards Bayern Munich of their Champions League quarterfinal… was this actual?
The thoughts, inevitably, went again to the 2014 World Cup semifinal, the “Mineirazo” in Belo Horizonte, when hometown Brazil discovered themselves 5-Zero down towards Germany inside half an hour. Three of these Bayern gamers — Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller — have been there on the bleakest night time in Brazilian football historical past since 1950. Then, as final night time, it was Mueller who opened the scoring.
However yeah, it was actual. All too actual.
The factor about Barcelona lately is that once they fall, they fall arduous, particularly within the knockout phases of the Champions League. Paris Saint-Germain (0-4) and Juventus (0-3) in 2016-17. Roma in 2017-18 (0-3). Liverpool final season (0-4). And now this.
“We have hit rock-bottom,” stated Gerard Pique. “We have to change — not simply gamers, not simply managers. I am not speaking about people, I am speaking about structural change. If it can assist the membership, I will go away too. Immediately was unacceptable. It was a shame.”
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The knee-jerk conclusion will little question be that this Barca team is as dependent on Lionel Messi as a yo-yo is reliant on gravity and that when he is subdued, Barca crumble. And that Quique Setien, like the person he changed, Ernesto Valverde, will likely be ushered out stage proper in 3, 2, 1. Not simply him, both. Embattled Barcelona president Jose Maria Bartomeu was fast to say that Pique was appropriate and there have been going to be large modifications. No, he wasn’t going to resign, however in keeping with native stories, sporting director Eric Abidal and chief government Oscar Grau might need to discover some cardboard containers to assist filter out their places of work actual quickly.
The final time Barcelona conceded eight objectives in an official match got here towards Sevilla within the Copa del Rey, besides it wasn’t known as that as a result of the king was in exile — it was the Copa del Generalissimo Francisco Franco. The yr was 1946, the U.S. flag had 48 stars, Winston Churchill had simply coined the time period “iron curtain” and Johan Cruyff hadn’t been born. But it surely’s churlish to focus on Barcelona’s dysfunction after this Bayern efficiency. And moreover, there will likely be loads of time to mull over the numerous pathologies that ail the Camp Nou from bench to boardroom.
Nope, Friday was about Bayern and the dual qualities of humility and relentlessness, made flesh within the type of Muller. Requested earlier than the match concerning the secret of Bayern’s success — they’ve scored 39 objectives in 9 Champions League matches this season — he stated it was as a result of they have been all the time humble of their method, taking nothing without any consideration and going arduous from starting to finish.
They play like a facet that feels the necessity to show itself each time they step on the pitch. And if which means channeling their internal Nick Sabans and operating up the rating, so be it.
Muller’s first aim epitomises this. Bayern win the ball again and Ivan Perisic barrels down the left flank. Muller breaks from deep, legs pumping, arm within the air. He is manner behind the play, centerforward Robert Lewandowski is effectively forward of him, able to tuck within the cross, however Muller calls for the ball. When it comes, he cushions it together with his proper for Lewandowski, he offers it straight again, for Muller to rifle previous the keeper.
Watch it once more and Muller appears to be like gangly and uncoordinated. An outsized ugly duckling. However he is aware of precisely what he is doing, and it is lethally efficient. He is the man on the pickup sport with the taped-up glasses, knee brace and the wonky, ugly soar shot who nonetheless all the time will get open and retains draining threes. Ungainly, positive, but additionally depraved good and prepared to run by means of brick partitions.
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Muller was chosen as man of the match, however when he stated it will be truthful to share the award together with his teammates, it wasn’t only a trite, post-match remark. Bayern are a Workforce with a capital “T” and what’s extra, they’ve all purchased into what their coach, Hansi Flick, is promoting.
There was Serge Gnabry, a livewire, bursting north-south by means of Barca’s again 4. There was Alphonso Davies, the Canadian winger-turned-left-back, creating maybe the signature spotlight of the 2019-20 Champions League leaving Nelson Semedo on the spot to arrange Joshua Kimmich’s tap-in. (That aim — a left-back establishing a right-back — is meant to be a near-physical impossibility on this sport… and no person who strikes that quick needs to be allowed to stay so calm and picked up at full throttle.) There was Leon Goretzka, the person with the construct of a bouncer and the contact of a firefly, establishing teammates with no-look passes.
But it surely’s as a lot concerning the setting wherein they function. Bayern’s final two objectives got here from substitute Philippe Coutinho, who’s on mortgage from Barcelona, of all locations, and has been a bust this season. He has no thought the place he’ll be for coaching camp subsequent month however, so long as he is there, his focus is in lock-step with the membership. The identical applies to Ivan Perisic, on mortgage from Inter, who scored to make it 2-1.
Then there are two gamers whose contracts expire in 2021 and whose future on the membership is unsure amidst stalled contract negotiations: Thiago Alcantara and David Alaba. The previous pulled the strings in midfield together with his regular, unflappable metronomic precision. The latter was so single-minded that, within the second minute of harm time with Bayern up 8-2, he practically blew a gasket arguing with the linesman over a throw-in. These guys don’t cease and they’re furiously, relentlessly on message.
That is the hallmark of an awesome membership and an awesome supervisor who’s able to conserving the surface world far-off as soon as the gamers cross the chalk strains across the pitch. Flick, a long-time assistant and administrator with the German FA, had not been a head coach for practically 15 years when he was appointed in November, initially on an interim foundation. This was Bayern’s 19th consecutive win in all competitions they usually have not misplaced since Dec. 7, 2019, again when many of the world thought Corona was one thing finest drunk with lime and nothing else.
They’re within the zone and it is a zone Flick created. And as of proper now, it appears to be like as if their single-minded march is heading straight to the Champions League crown.