Bayern were beaten 4:2 (6:3) after some shockingly poor officiating but we can be proud of their performance during this campaign.
Ten against fourteen
Let us get the burning issue out of the way first. The phrase “we were robbed” is a frequently-used phrase in football. Bayern were not just robbed. We were given a cuffing by the uniformed staff too. Both on the pitch and, as it later emerged, in the stands.
I am not going to shirk from saying it. The referee and his team officials were incompetently myopic at best, a disgrace at worst. If Arturo Vidal’s second yellow card for a perfectly legitimate challenge was not enough, the linesman’s decision not to raise his flag when Ronaldo was a good yard offside was the clincher.
If just to make matters worse and twist the knife further, Ronaldo’s third was marginally offside too. One could also argue that Casemiro should have been sent for an early bath long before Vidal was called out for his perfectly timed tackle.
Video technology in high-profile competition cannot come soon enough, as it is patently obvious that these officials are unable to keep up with the play. Yes, it is a tough job, but we cannot keep seeing major ties being distorted like this. One also has to wonder about the quality of the teams of officials. Viktor Kassai is a well-respected referee and can possibly be given a pass, but there is quite a leap between running the line in a Hungarian league match and doing the same job in a quarter final in Europe’s biggest competition.
We all knew that the first question was going to be answered before a ball was even kicked at the Santiago Bernabéu. Top scorer Robert Lewandowski was surely going to be back in the starting lineup, but what about Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng? With Javi Martínez suspended after his two yellow cards in Munich, missing one of Mats or Boa would have been a problem, and missing both would have been a disaster – especially against a potent goal-scoring force like Real Madrid.
Then we saw the team sheets. All names present and correct. The best possible back four, and Lewy up top in place of the benched Thomas Müller. We would have no idea if either of the two central defenders could see out the ninety minutes and possibly more, but it was the big boost we all wanted.
Somewhat starved of service, Robert Lewandowski would have a pretty quiet first half by his usual high standards. Part of the blame could be laid at the door of both Thiago and particularly David Alaba, who seemed to overhit every attempt at a long ball or cross.
But when called on, the Polish striker showed just why Bayern had missed him so badly in the first leg. When the fast-moving Robben was upended in the box by Casemiro, Lewandowski delivered the perfect ice-cold finish from the penalty spot. In the second half he was far more present as Bayern looked to turn the screw, but Vidal’s second yellow card completely changed the game. As coach Carlo Ancelotti looked to reset with ten men, the striker was sacrificed.
If only Lewy was on the pitch last week in Munich. Things would have all been done and dusted, and we could have spared our fingernails without having to endure another dose of midweek Champions League pain.
If Lewandowski provided that additional extra punch up front, Boateng and Hummels were titans at the back. As the match went into extra time you could see both players visibly slowing down, but their fighting spirit summed up Bayern’s performance.
Time and again both players threw their bodies on the line. Every time there was a sniff of danger, they were quick to get into position and quell the threat. In the end, though, it was never going to be quite enough.
So close, yet so far
As in the first leg there were a number of pivotal moments in what was just over two hours of intense drama. When Bayern were 2-1 in front, things were looking bright for the men in red. The home crowd were subdued, and Die Roten looked as though they were going to sweep through to the last four.
Then came the dramatic and game-changing red card for Vidal, which swung the momentum heavily back towards the home side. It was a dreadful decision by the referee, who with his team of officials can foot much of the blame for ruining what was a perfectly balanced tie between two equally matched teams.
So ends another Champions League campaign for Bayern, but this time we can say nothing negative about the coach or the team. They gave their all, against increasing odds. We can all be proud.