There was no comeback. There was no miracle. Instead Barça suffered a humiliating 0-3 home defeat to a splendid Bayern Munich side that now meet Borussia Dortmund in an all-German final at Wembley on May 25.
It was always going to be tough for Barça with Puyol, Mascherano, Abidal, Busquets and Alba all missing but the news an hour before kick-off that Leo Messi was only starting on the bench was another big blow. Cesc Fabregas took his place playing behind David Villa as Barça lined up with Valdés, Alves, Bartrá, Piqué, Adriano, Xavi, Song, Iniesta, Pedro, Fabregas and Villa.
With the need to score at least four goals Barça set out with a risky formation with Dani Alves pushing up on the right while Pedro occupied the left wing. However, the result was that Bayern looked dangerous every time we lost the ball and only three important interventions from Piqué in the first 25 minutes kept us in the game.
Going forward there was little imagination with Barça looking for Alves who was well controlled by the hard-working Ribery while Fabregas was particularly unfortunate in his link-up play. Bartrá headed over from Xavi’s free kick in the 10th minute and the next attempt on goal from Barça didn’t arrive until the 24th minute when Pedro let fly from 30 yards forcing Neuer to tip over for a corner.
Barça’s best chance to take the lead came on 27 minute when Alves put in a good cross to the far post where Fabregas chested the ball down to Xavi who hooked a left foot volley over from six yards. In Barça’s best spell Alves found Xavi in the area but when Xavi squared the ball Fabregas got a poor control and Neuer gathered.
However, the danger from Bayern’s counter attack was always there and Robben was enjoying the space to run at our defence. In the 35th minute Song had to be quick to block as the Dutchman cut inside to shoot. Barça made a push for a goal before half time but the final ball was nearly always off target and the only shot on goal was a hopeful effort from Adriano that was easily saved by Neuer.
Half time arrived with the game still goalless but there was little surprise when Bayern took the lead early in the second half. Alaba played a long ball out to Robben in acres of space and when he reached the penalty area he easily cut inside Adriano before firing inside the far post.
Now needing to score six Barça began to fall apart. Vilanova brought on Alexis and Thiago in place of Xavi and Iniesta but little improved and Barça didn’t manage another shot on target until Pedro’s effort straight at Neuer in the 71st minute. A minute later Bayern went forward and Luiz Gustavo had a simple task to send a pass between Alves and Bartrá for Ribery to cross from the left and Piqué attempting to cut the ball out only succeeded in kneeing the ball into his own goal.
Straight after Bayern’s second Villa had a decent chance from Alves’s deep cross but El Guaje could only head narrowly wide. Then in the 76th minute Piqué lost the ball on a foray forward leaving the defence exposed, Ribery went past Song on the left and sent in a delightful cross to the far post where Muller rose above Bartrá to head home the German’s third.
There were late attempts for a Barça consolation goal but Bartrá and Thiago failed to find the target with headers and when Villa finally got one on target it was straight at Neuer. The result could have been even worse but Bayern’s substitute Rafinha fired wide near the end but the 7-0 aggregate score spoke clearly for Bayern’s superiority over the two games.
The idea that sometimes you just have to accept that the other team has been better is all very well but we really did not do ourselves justice tonight. Bayern should be congratulated as they have an excellent team who thoroughly deserve to be crowned as the new kings of Europe. However, it was like men against boys tonight and Barça were a shadow of the team that has thrilled us so much in the last five years. There can be no excuses about players who were missing or refereeing decisions in the first game. There were seven world cup winners in Barça’s starting XI and they haven’t just suddenly forgotten how to play. Tonight the only players who performed to an decent level were Piqué and Alex Song and questions need to be asked when even Andres Iniesta fails to do anything of note.
Finally, according to Tito Vilanova Messi felt a strange sensation after the Athletic game on Saturday and today he didn’t feel comfortable to play. One really has to wonder what is the point of having such an advantage in La Liga when we risk our best player to win a point on Saturday only to lose him for the biggest test of the season.
Barça: Valdés 6; Alves 5.5, Bartrá 5 (Montoya m87, –)), Piqué 7, Adriano 5; Xavi 6 (Alexis m55, 6), Song 6.5, Iniesta 5 (Thiago m65, 5.5); Pedro 5, Fabregas 4.5, Villa 5.
Bayern: Neuer; Lahm (Rafinha m77), Van Buyten, Boateng, Alaba; Javi Martinez (Tymoshchuk m74), Schweinsteiger (Gustavo m67); Robben, Muller, Ribery; Mandzukic.
Goals: m49 Robben 0-1, m72 Piqué (o.g.) 0-2, m76 Muller 0-3.
Yellow cards: m32 Robben, m45+1 Alves, m78 Piqué.