Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It Happened in Europe: Messi's brace sees Barcalona in front

Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich
Pep Guardiola's return to Camp Nou was ruined by a pair of Messi blasts and a Neymar breakaway late in the game to give Barcalona the 3-0 advantage after the first leg. Barca's speed won out over Bayern Munich's physical play, even though they were even for most of the match.

Bayern's aggressive defense was winning the day early in the match, but Barcelona had the first brilliant chance of the match regardless. It came 11 minutes in when Luis Suarez was alone against Manuel Neuer. The Uruguayan tried to go low, but the German international keeper got his foot out to make the save. A simple chip was all Suarez needed to do to give Barca a 1-0 lead. Neymar had another golden opportunity minutes later, but missed from point blank range.

Bayern was able to keep possession in the opening, but chances like the Suarez one proved that they were quite vlnerable on the counter attack. Robert Lewandowski almost converted that possession into something when he was inches away from sliding into a sliding Thomas Muller cross.

Starting around the 20 minute mark, Barcelona started to play the game how they wanted. Messi was delivering great crosses and overall doing what he does. Barcelona's fleetness of foot was becoming a problem for the Bayern back four. The match was quite physical, but Bayern was still committing fouls just to stop the Spaniards from running all over them. Bayern's attemtps to slow things down a bit often ended in failure.

Had it not been for some great goalkeeping by Neuer, it easily would have been 2-0 to Barca at haltime. Instead, the not quite complete finishing meant that it stayed scoreless after 45 minutes.

The chippy nature continued as the second half began. Dani Alves and Thomas Muller were scolded for what looked like glorified cat-fighting in the penalty area before a Bayern corner.

Barcalona tried to pick up the pace in the first quarter hour after the break and Bayern was doing a fine job of not allowing them to. Whenever Messi found himself with the ball near the top of the box he was instantly swarmed by four defenders. When Messi had a chance to get free, Bayern fouled him to slow him down. It was really their only option.

Things started to reek of a scoreless draw as the hour mark approached. Bayern didn't have the legs to outrun Barca, so they didn't look like scoring. Manuel Neuer was having such a strong game that he never looked like conceding. But, boy was I wrong.

Messi ended the talk of a goalless affair with a very Messi-like goal in the 77th minute. Another Bayern turnover in their own half led to him getting the ball in the corner of the box. Messi knew the whole time that he would shoot and he tucked his blast inside the near post, well outside the reach of Neuer. The goal put him back on the level with Ronaldo for most goals in Champions League history.

The second blow came at the stoke of 80 minutes when, you guessed it, sloppy play by Bayern in their own half led to Messi's second of the game. The Argentinian wizard broke Jerome Boateng's ankles and forced him to fall to the turf, giving Messi free reign over the right half of the pitch. His chip over the keeper was top notch, as well. He was tied with Ronaldo for the goals record for all of three minutes before he swam right back in front.

Because 2-0 wasn't enough, Neymarr took advantage of Bayern pushing hard for an away goal to get behind the back line for an easy breakaway goal, and the carnage was complete.

In the end, Barcalona was just too quick for Bayern's physical appraoch.

Bayern had a rough go of things in their own half at times. Constant turnovers in their own half proved to be their ultimate undoing. It's things like this that the Germans will have to clean up if they hope to triumph in the home leg and play a Champions League Final in their home nation.

Things are far from impossible for Bayern Munich. They are a much better team in the Allianz Arena than they are on the road. I'm not saying they can pull of what they did against Porto again, but it wouldn't shock me one bit if this result were flipped around in the second leg, setting up a fantastic extra time thriller on Tuesday.

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