Thomas Müller scored twice as Bayern recorded the biggest victory in a semi-final game and closed in on a third final in four years.
After stepping out to a magnificently choreographed red-and-white display which spanned the entire arena, Bayern harnessed the home support and began powerfully, driving forward and creating the game’s first opportunity just two minutes in. Javi Martínez’s back-heel gave Robben time to set himself in the box only for the Dutchman to poke straight at Víctor Valdés.
Once the early advances subsided, Barcelona started to dominate possession and their incessant pressing forced Bayern to move the ball quickly out of defence. Though used to controlling matches, playing on the counterattack nevertheless seemed to suit the hosts, who looked dangerous on either flank and broke the deadlock in the 25th minute when Dante nodded Robben’s cross back for Müller to head past Valdés at the near post.
Barça came close to equalising when Pedro Rodríguez’s low cross was taken off the toes of the returning Lionel Messi in the centre by Dante, but otherwise Bayern continued to enjoy the upper hand, winning the duels in the middle and raiding with purpose.
The visitors regained their composure towards the interval, but were undone once more four minutes after it, as Bayern doubled their tally. Müller was again involved, heading Robben’s corner into the danger zone for Gomez, deputising for the suspended Mario Mandžukić, to tap in. It was the perfect tonic for any home fans fearful of a Barcelona revival and inspired a flurry of further chances.
First Müller dragged past the post after a diagonal run. Franck Ribéry was then unable to apply the finish after being fed by Robben, who next rose above Alexis Sánchez to glance Bastian Schweinsteiger’s free-kick wide.
The ball remained Blaugrana property for the most part, yet for all the intricate passing of Messi, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta, Bayern always had a body in the way. Marc Bartra might have pulled one back from close range, but Neuer made the save and the Bavarians’ back line would not be threatened again.
Instead, Barcelona were caught out twice more before the end. Robben notched Bayern’s third after a swift counterattack, drifting in from the right and slotting into the far corner, before Müller tapped in the fourth with eight minutes remaining. It signalled Barça’s biggest defeat since May 2007 and reversed Bayern’s 4-0 quarter-final loss at Camp Nou in 2009 – and, most crucially, took the German champions to the brink of a second successive final.
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Clinical Bayern complete Barcelona conquest
The German side recorded the biggest aggregate win in a UEFA Champions League semi-final to set up an all-Bundesliga final at Wembley on 25 May.
Nevertheless, even though the first game had been such a clinical defeat and regardless of the disappointment that Lionel Messi was fit only for the bench, this was initially a much more typical Barcelona performance. In terms of work-rate, self-confidence and positive intentions, Tito Vilanova’s team were at least equal to opponents who had overrun them eight days earlier.
Bayern showed clear intent, however, to try and press with the same diligence and intelligence witnessed in Munich, then pounce on errors. Thirteen minutes in that nearly paid a rich dividend when Bastian Schweinsteiger used the ‘third-man run’, a tactic so beloved of Barcelona themselves, to set Robben haring in on goal. Piqué’s tackle was a goal-saving intervention.
Before the half was out Piqué was required to produce equally vital interceptions to deny Philipp Lahm and Mario Mandžukić, with the influential Schweinsteiger again at the heart of both moves.
However, because Barcelona were working so hard, they too enjoyed their opportunities. Pedro Rodríguez’s shot had the virtue of being an instant decision and so well struck that Manuel Neuer needed his full length to tip it over. Xavi Hernández then hooked a half-volley narrowly over at a time when a Blaugrana goal would have given a real competitive edge to an already intriguing match.
Yet chances missed will always come back to haunt, particularly at this level. Four minutes after the break Barcelona cleared a corner as far as David Alaba on the halfway line. The full-back’s long crossfield pass exposed the defence and allowed Robben space to run at Marc Bartra. In his trademark manoeuvre the Dutchman ran straight, cut inside onto his left foot and smashed the ball beyond Valdés.
Soon both Xavi and Andrés Iniesta were taken off, an indication that for the Barça staff this tie was already lost and tired stars could be protected. Confirmation came with 18 minutes left when Franck Ribéry’s fierce left-wing centre sliced off Piqué’s shin as he tried to clear and bulged the net.
Four minutes later, Barcelona’s misery was complete. Ribéry lofted another cross to the back post and Müller outmuscled Bartra and Adriano to nod in, capping a genuinely remarkable night for Jupp Heynckes’ heavyweights, whose ruthless and stylish display bodes well for a fifth European title in north London.
© 1998-2014 UEFA. All rights reserved.