BRILLIANT Bayern Munich completed a stunning Champions League semi-final mauling of Barcelona last night to set up a mouthwatering Wembley final against Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund.
Scorers: Bayern Munich: Robben (48), Pique (72 og), Muller (76)
Referee: D Skomina (Slovenia)
Leading 4-0 from the first leg, Bayern were similarly clinical at the Nou Camp with second-half goals from Arjen Robben, Gerard Pique – who put through his own net – and Thomas Muller sealing a one-sided win over a sorry Barca side for whom Lionel Messi was an unused substitute. The victory sees Bayern through to a third final in four years and they will hope to improve on runner-up finishes against Inter Milan in 2010 and Chelsea last year when they face Real Madrid’s conquerors Dortmund in the competition’s first all-German final on 25 May.
Barca were up against it with only three teams ever having overturned a four-goal first-leg deficit in Europe, and their chances of joining that list looked even slimmer after Messi was judged not fit enough to start the game. The Argentina forward has been struggling with a hamstring problem in recent weeks and, although he scored after appearing as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s Primera Division draw with Athletic Bilbao, coach Tito Vilanova opted only to name him on the bench this evening.
Even with Messi in their side, Barca barely troubled Bayern during the first leg, and it was the German champions who dominated the early exchanges tonight as well. Robben and Philipp Lahm both looked poised to give Bayern what would almost certainly have been a tie-ending away goal in the opening 20 minutes but Pique produced brilliant last-ditch tackles to deny both players.
Barca’s first serious threat on goal came in the 24th minute when Pedro Rodriguez saw his 30-yard drive tipped over by Manuel Neuer as it arrowed towards the top corner. Two minutes later Xavi volleyed a decent opening over from seven yards out while Adriano drew a relatively comfortable save from Neuer in the 40th minute, but those were rare moments of concern for Bayern in the opening period.
Barca remained unchanged at the start of the second-half with Messi continuing on the bench, but any hopes the world’s best player might later inspire an unlikely fightback disappeared three minutes after the restart as Bayern took the lead. Robben picked up a long cross-field pass from David Alaba near the right touchline before racing into the area where he cut inside Adriano onto his favoured left foot and curled an unstoppable shot past Victor Valdes inside the far post. That away goal left Barca needing to score six times to go through to a fourth final in eight years, and it proved well beyond them. With the tie gone, Vilanova opted to keep Messi under wraps and his first two changes saw him send on Alexis Sanchez and Thiago for Spain duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Despite those changes Bayern continued to look comfortable and they doubled their lead 18 minutes from time. Franck Ribery got in behind Dani Alves down the left and his cross was sliced into his own net by Pique with Mario Mandzukic lurking behind. Ribery was also involved four minutes later as Bayern heaped more misery on Barca with a third goal. The home side had actually come close to making it 2-1 moments earlier when Villa’s glancing header hit the outside of the post, but it was game, set and match for the Germans in the 76th minute when Ribery burst past Alex Song before dinking a cross to the far post where Muller climbed highest to head high home. Shell-shocked Barca tried to find a consolation goal late on but Jupp Heynckes’ side held firm to record a 22nd win in their last 23 competitive games and seal their spot in the final. For the Catalans, it was the first time they had been beaten home and away in a knockout European tie since Dundee United’s fabled win in the Uefa Cup back in 1987.
Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Bartra (Montoya 87), Adriano, Xavi (Sanchez 55), Song, Iniesta (Thiago 64), Villa, Fabregas, Pedro. Subs not used: Pinto, Messi, Jonathan, Tello.
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Lahm (Rafinha 77), Boateng, Van Buyten, Alaba, Javi Martinez (Tymoschuk 74), Schweinsteiger (Gustavo 66), Robben, Muller, Ribery, Mandzukic. Subs not used: Starke, Dante, Shaqiri, Gomez.