Bayern failed to beat Real Madrid, and sorely missed Robert Lewandowski. A few takeaways from a night to forget.
Ten-man Bayern started strongly, but after a painful penalty déjà vu , Real Madrid gave them a thorough working over. The Bavarians missed the injured Robert Lewandowski, and their Champions League hopes were kept alive by Manuel Neuer.
No Bob for Bayern
They said it couldn’t happen, but it did. The man who could never get injured, the man who could never be replaced… Was injured, and needed to be replaced. The Polish striker sat in the stands, having sustained a shoulder injury courtesy of Roman Bürki last Saturday.
Bob’s absence brought Thomas Müller into the starting lineup, alongside flying wing men Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry. Manuel Neuer returned as well, after a two-game injury break.
If you complain enough, you will get results
For as long as we can remember, Bayern fans have moaned about the team’s inability to create anything from corner kicks. While the likes of Ingolstadt have turned the Eckball into a rather rustic art form, free-scoring Bayern have continued to struggle.
The problem goes all the way back to the Louis van Gaal era. It reached its nadir in the 2012 Champions League final. Pep Guardiola never gave it much thought in his three years.
Bayern botched two corners in the first five minutes. They took a couple more which were just as bad. Then, in the 25th minute, a perfectly floated ball that was rocketed in by the sculpted head of Arturo Vidal.
Like corners, penalties have been another source of woe for Die Roten for a while now. Again, we can go back to 2012 and the disaster against Chelsea. Then lies a path that includes a number of players falling on their backsides against Dortmund and the formerly reliable Thomas Müller going completely off the boil.
Vidal stepped up this time. Regular Elfmetermeister Lewandowski was watching from a distance. Müller is out of favour and Arjen Robben is also out of the equation. The Chilean put a lot of power, but little else as he ballooned an ugly hoick high over the crossbar.
In fairness, the penalty was a bad call. But this is the Champions League, where you need to take everything handed to you. In what felt like a horrible case of déjà vu, the penalty miss that would have put some daylight between the two teams was followed by a Madrid equaliser just minutes into the second half.
Brave, but brainless
Bayern were the better team by far in the first half, fell to a sucker punch early on in the second, and after Javi Martínez’s two yellow cards in the space of three minutes it was all hands to the pump with the emphasis on damage control.
Javi’s second yellow card was arguably a little harsh, but when viewed again it was utterly brainless. Down on the ground with Ronaldo running straight at him, he lifted a boot. Cue Ronaldo taking an all too predictable tumble, perfectly-executed forward roll, and sneaky glance at the referee. Javi knew it, we all knew it. He had to go.
Neuer the Wall
Goalkeeping deputy Sven Ulreich had filled in well enough, but his gaffe against Hoffenheim showed just why every Bayern fan acquires an additional warm and fuzzy layer of confidence when Manuel Neuer is standing between the sticks.
Neuer doesn’t make too much of a fuss, and there are very few spectacular flying leaps. This is because Neuer’s sense of anticipation is second to none, in that he has this almost magical ability to sense where the ball is heading before it has even been struck. OK, I am exaggerating slightly, but you get the idea.
Real were threatening all evening, but Neuer was magnificent both before and after Bayern were reduced to ten men. He could do nothing about Cristiano Ronaldo’s equaliser and was completely bamboozled for the Portuguese’s second, but it could have been worse. A whole lot worse.
Hopes hanging by a thread
Since their last defeat at the Allianz – yes, against Madrid – Bayern had strung together a 16-game unbeaten record stretching over three years. Both their form and the first half showing suggested something better, but in the end the Bestia Negra was tamed – by a Madrid side in all black rather than their usual all white.
Bayern’s Champions League dream is now hanging by a thread, but the magnificent Neuer – and a excellent spot from the touchline assistant right at the end to scratch out Sergio Ramos’s injury time effort – just about keeps the Bavarians in the hunt.
With a fit Lewandowski and nothing to lose, the Bavarian beast that returns to Madrid in a week’s time could come charging out of the blocks. The supporters were magnificent all night, and those travelling to the Spanish capital will be in full voice. We are still in it. Just.