It was supposed to be a highly touted semi-final Champions League clash of two world football titans. It was supposed to be Germany versus Spain. It was supposed to be Lionel Messi and the unbreakable passing of Barcelona vs. Bastian Schweinstager and the complete team of Bayern Munich. But what it turned into was a showcase of the pure physical talents of the Germans and it exposed a serious weakness in Barcelona.
The game in Germany started out as to be expected. Barcelona had the lion’s share of the possession, and Bayern did its work on the counter-attack, feeding off a potent attack from Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben. But the one thing that stood out even in the beginning was the physical dominance of Bayern in the air; they have a serious height advantage and looked to feed the ball in the box through the air.
Messi, the soccer golden-child, nursed a hamstring injury and looked a shell of himself against the physical Germans. And it showed in Barcelona’s lack of ability to find the goal, both goals themselves and even shots on target. However, midway through the first half, Bayern made Barcelona pay for their disadvantage.
In a brilliant build-up, Thomas Muller found himself in the box, but heavily guarded. After a quick pass out to Robben, Robben chipped the ball through to Dante, who headed it directly back to an open Muller who headed in for the first goal of many for the Germans. It was that airplay that would ultimately prove to be the demise of the Spaniards, who could not physically compete with the men of Bayern.
Early in the second half, they were once again exposed. Off a corner, Robben found Muller on the far post. Muller, everywhere on the pitch during this game, headed it right back to the center, where beloved German striker Mario Gomez was waiting to smash home the second for Bayern. Barcelona looked lost and physically mismatched. However, they began to build some momentum, driving and pushing forward and finding the ability to get good looks at the goal.
But the Germans were not finished. Robben, who is regularly given flak for his disinterest in passing to his teammates, showed why he is capable of holding onto the ball with a brilliant bit of skill in the 73rd minute. With a little help from a Muller screen, he switched the ball from his right to his natural left and smashed home from an incredibly difficult angle to put the Germans up by an unthinkable score of 3-0. Muller later scored again to make the score 4-0.
This was a very telling game for both squads. The Germans asserted themselves and claimed their proper reward. A dominant 4-0 win that made a statement to the football world and Barcelona, long thought of a football giants. The smooth passing and game control of Barcelona have long been the staples of their huge success. But Bayern played the counter-attack with brilliance and sent a message to both their opponent, as well as both of their potential future opponents in Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, who face off in their own Champions League semi-final Wednesday at 11:45 PST.
As for Barcelona, the opposite was true. More questions were raised than answered. They were unable to finish in front of goal with Messi hobbled. They were unable to compete on set pieces and crosses. They accumulated four yellow cards on ten fouls, and were majorly outnumbered on corner kicks, 11-4, and shots taken 15-4. They melted down as the game went on and truly looked as though they were in a game out of their league, which is mind-boggling, because this is Barcelona we are talking about. This team is essentially the Spanish national team, the same team that throttled Italy 4-0 in the Euro-Cup finals in the summer of 2012.
Now they head back home to the Bernabeu down 4-0 and they need to win by the same margin without allowing any goals to the visitors to even have a chance at penalty kicks. Not the ideal position for the former Champions.
Player of the Match: Thomas Muller. Muller was DOMINANT in this one, scoring two goals and registering an assist, not to mention making the physical play that allowed Robben’s goal in the 73rd minute. His strength of pace and willingness to fight into the box was unparalleled on the pitch.
Worst Player of the Match: Gerard Pique. Being married to Shakira has its perks, but the Spaniard was horrendous in this one. His is the staple of the back four for Barcelona, but he looked lost, much like the rest of his team in the lob-sided defeat. He also should have been called for a handball that would have resulted in a penalty kick, but he got away with it. Karma struck though, and his team was throttled 4-0 in an embarrassing fashion
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