Munich (special courier)Some defeats bring you down, make you feel small. Others hurt you a lot, but push you to grow. Barça has changed a lot in recent months. If playing against Bayern used to be scary, not anymore. If the Bavarians looked like giants before, now Barça can look them in the eye. Barça is changing, improving, dusting off fears. But if something doesn’t change, it’s Bayern. Whatever happens, football is still a sport in which two teams play and the Germans always win (2-0).
How bad it was, this defeat. But a very different pain than those eight death bells in Lisbon. Bayern’s goals hurt the flesh, because Barça is very much alive. The Bavarians scored the goals, Barça the game. And football is still a game where you win by scoring goals. Things in life, precisely what failed Xavi’s team in Bavaria were the goals that Robert Lewandowski usually provides. Polish is not a perfect machine. Normally so effective, he spared three clears on the return to his old home. It must not be easy to have to hurt someone who has been your family for so long if you score a goal. For once, the ball went wide when he was left alone in front of Neuer, who knows him so well. And Barça lost a golden opportunity.
Munich saw an unfinished work from Barça. It wasn’t a victory, but the match served to deliver a message to everyone who wants to read it. There was no better stage than this, the Bayern stadium, scene of so many defeats, to claim a young and brazen project. It was the ideal place to watch as the proud Bavarian ogre began to get nervous at the sight of the ball being fumbled at home. A full-fledged revolt, with a lot of small players making the German giants dance to their rhythm. The Bayern fans, who welcomed Lewandowski with applause, discovered how difficult it can be to play against the Pole. Every time he touched the ball, the stadium breathed differently. It must be a similar feeling to seeing the person you’ve loved for many years walking down the street with their new love.
Xavi did not hesitate. And to think that there were those who claimed recently that the Blaugrana coach liked to play on the counter. Being part of the same family tree as Cruyff and Guardiola means visiting Bayern and being braver than ever, sending six men to press almost at the feet of Manuel Neuer. Gavi, mad, chased the ball into the heart of the Bavarian area. As if he wanted to be the one to drive the stake into the heart of the German demon. Barça only suffered when the Bavarians could run on the counter, especially thanks to a Davies who seems to have been born on another planet where men are stronger. The Canadian full-back crunched Raphinha in defense and forced Xavi to switch sides with the Brazilian to face Dembélé with Davies. And the result was a clear penalty on the Frenchman that the referee inexplicably did not see.
Two pats on the back
With Marcos Alonso making his debut on one side and Christensen next to Araujo, Barça had enough of their shots on goal in a first half in which Bayern fell short. Barcelona fans needed a match like this. In Munich and with the Champions League anthem. It was enough to be the European rioter. It was time to recover sensations and do it where Barça’s great projects had been clouded. And all, with Pedri leading the rhythm, dressed as a Philharmonic director, dancing as if he were Nijinski on stage. Against such a physical opponent, he seemed to fly, hiding the ball like a magic trick. But the goal did not come. And the monster woke up.
The second half started with a clear chance from Raphinha. Barça kept going, constantly. But Bayern’s first corner ended with a Lucas header. Bayern had risen from the box to hurt again and bit Barça twice in five minutes. First with Lucas’ goal and then with an individual run by Leroy Sané. No one can deny the competitive gene of the Germans, capable of suffering for 45 minutes and hitting you in the back when you least expect it.
Barça did not give up. It’s not part of the DNA of this team. He kept trying, now with Ferran and De Jong on the pitch, but Bayern are like one of those monsters with a thousand faces. And he turned into a wall, letting the minutes pass while Dembélé was disappearing and Pedri forgave the 2-1. Nor did Ansu find the spell to alter the course of a bitter match, as painful as a love affair that ends unexpectedly without a kiss. Barça, seductive, brave, tried in every way, but they forgave. Bayern, on the other hand, does not know the meaning of the word forgiveness. The German ogre, however, is no longer so superior. It’s so close… and yet so far. Two goals apart, specifically. The goals that, for one day, Lewandowski and company did not have.
- FC Bayern: Manuel Neuer; Pavard (Mazraoui, 21′), Upamecano, Lucas Hernández, Davies; Sabitzer (Goretzka, 46′), Kimmich, Musiala (Gravenberch, 79′), Thomas Müller, Sadio Mané (Gnabry, 68′); i Leroy Sané (Tel, 79′).
- FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen (Eric Garcia, 67′), Marcos Alonso; Sergio Busquets (Kessie, 79′), Gavi (Frankie de Jong, 60′), Pedri; Raphinha (Ferran Torres, 60′), Lewandowski and Dembele (Ansu Fati, 79′).
- Goals: 1-0 Lucas Hernández (50′) and 2-0 Leroy Sané (40′)
- Referee: Danny Makkelie (Netherlands)
- Yellow cards: Sabitzer (19′), Sergio Busquets (48′) and Kimmich 874′)
- Red cards: None
- Stadium: Allianz Arena, 75,000 spectators.