Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It Happened in Europe: Barcelona cruises to Berlin

Bayern Munich 3-2 Barcelona (3-5 on Aggregate)
Barcelona played the way the needed to in order to advance to the Champions League final in Berlin. They got an away goal, or two as it ended up, and bottled up the Bayern Munich attack to the point of impotence.

Bayern Munich thought they had just the start they were looking for when Mehdi Benatia scored on a header off a Xabi Alonso corner. The only way Bayern would win this game was with a quick goal, a a quick second goal, and a clean sheet. They got the first ten minutes they were looking for, but then they forgot to play defense.

Neymar nullified the early goal by being on the end of a spectacular passing play between him, Leo Messi, and Luis Suarez. After a quarter hour, things went from optimistic to mostly hopeless for Bayern.

It went to entirely hopeless only 14 minutes later when Neymar struck again to put Barcelona up 2-1 on the match and 5-1 on aggregate with a pair of away goals.

Both Barcelona first half goals were created by Bayern pressing forward with all their forces because they had to. Barca is just too good to ignore the defensive part of the game. Their front three of Messi, Neymar, and Suarez is probably the best attack in the world. If you push too far forward and ignore even one of those three you will get burned, as Bayern learned today.

What could be frustrating for Bayern is that it wasn't like their attack was without life. They had plenty of chances that were just missing the final ball to finish off the attack.

For the rest of the match, Barca was content playing defense and preventing Bayern from getting any space in the box. The one lapse is defensive concentration allowed Robert Lewandowski to score from the outside of the box. A mistake Barcelona wouldn't make twice. Thomas Muller added one more in the 74th, but it hardly mattered.

Bayern needed five goals in the second half in order to win. Extra time was not an option as soon as Barca got the critical away goal. Five goals against Barcelona is impossible. The numbers required to commit forward would leave too many loose ends for them to exploit. Even when it was 3-1 in aggregate and Bayern still had a chance, Barcelona proved that.

Barca awaits the results of tomorrow's other semi-final between Real Madrid and Juventus in Madrid. Juve carries their 2-1 lead into the second leg, but the Santiago Bernabeu is a tough spot to play. Juve needs an away goal at the minimum in order to see this one through. However, if I were a betting man (which I'm not), I would throw money on Real Madrid creating an all Spanish final.

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