Bayern Munich gorged themselves at the top table of European football on Tuesday night.
The powerhouse performance that Bavaria’s finest produced against Barcelona in their Champions League semi-final was as good a 90 minutes of football as you are likely to witness.
Taking into account the quality of their opponents, I doubt that many pundits would have imagined quite such a one-sided spectacle.
Barcelona’s famed “tiki-taka” passing game was only evident in short phases of the match and was no match for Bayern’s heady mix of raw aggression, power, pace and a strong pressing game.
Let’s take a look at how I rated both teams…
Bayern Munich Goalkeeper and Defence
Manuel Neuer: 5/10
I don’t think I can rate Bayern’s keeper higher than a five because he had hardly anything to do in the game! A couple of routine saves aside, this will have been one of the quietest nights he has enjoyed.
David Alaba: 8/10
Got forward at every opportunity as his direct opponent, Pedro, offered little as an attacking threat. Popped up as a “false nine” halfway through the first half. Set up the fourth goal, racing down the outside on 81 minutes to cross for Thomas Muller.
Apart from a couple of wasteful early balls, Dante was a commanding presence at the heart of the Bayern defence. A brick wall that Barcelona couldn’t breach. Huge leap to set up the first goal. Dominant.
Jerome Boateng: 7/10
Was dependable and assured alongside Dante, mopping up any loose balls in and around the area. Went about his work quietly but effectively and was always available.
Philipp Lahm: 8/10
An energetic performance from the Bayern captain. Played high up the pitch at every opportunity, affecting the play whenever possible. Kept Alexis Sanchez very quiet for the most part.
Bayern Munich Midfield
Bastian Schweinsteiger: 9/10
Patrolled the midfield like a general. Had the unenviable task of man-marking Lionel Messi. That the Argentine barely had a sniff of a chance in this game tells you all you need to know about the performance of “Schweini”—at the heart of everything.
Bayern Munich Attack and Substitutes
Thomas Muller: 9/10
A great attacking performance from the two-goal hero. Muller served notice of his intentions with a strong challenge on Jordi Alba on 17 minutes.
Quick to react to Dante’s header for the first goal, he was on point for the coup de grace, sandwiching his setup for Mario Gomez to get on the scoresheet. However, he was lucky not to get booked in the lead-up to Robben’s goal.
Mario Gomez: 9/10
A spearhead in the Bayern attack, his presence often unsettled the Barcelona defence. Gomez led the line very well, bringing others into play often. Despite being offside for his goal, his all-round display deserved some reward.
Luiz Gustavo: 4/10
Luiz Gustavo came on as a 71st-minute substitute for Gomez, but there was little play of note from the player in the short time he had on the pitch.
Xherdan Shaqiri: 4/10
Replaced Ribery on 88 minutes but, as with Gustavo, there was too little time for the player to impose his quality on this match.
Claudio Pizarro: 4/10
Played the last seven minutes of the match, taking over offensive duties from Muller. With the game already won, the substitute linked up well but had little effect to the overall performance/result.
Barcelona Goalkeeper and Defence
Victor Valdes: 5/10
Got down well to deny Robben in the second minute but was rooted to the spot for the first goal and caught in no man’s land for the third. Perhaps could’ve done better in cutting out the cross for the fourth goal—the keeper has had better nights.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Alba was as good as ever marauding forward, but too often there was no end product to his play. A scuffed pass on 62 minutes when Messi was well-placed to receive is a prime example. Allowed Muller to get ahead of him for the fourth goal and ruled himself out of the second leg with a stupid act of petulance at the end of the match.
Gerard Pique: 7/10
Good distribution for the most part although he lacked attention at times, most noticeably when he stood still for the first goal, allowing Muller in behind. Pique did win a fair number of balls in the air but was again found wanting for Gomez’ goal.
Marc Bartra: 5/10
The game was just too big for him. Tito Vilanova had no choice but to start with him, but unfortunately for the youngster, this was not the game to be thrown in at the deep end. A few completed passes aside, his performance was most notable for the glaring miss on 68 minutes that would’ve given the game an entirely different complexion.
Dani Alves: 7/10
Involved in much of Barcelona’s early play, he got forward at every opportunity but did well not to neglect his defensive duties. Alves never stopped working, but it was his tired pass that led to the attack culminating in the third goal.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
Busquets did little wrong in this match, the Barcelona midfield were simply overrun by superior opponents. Breaking up play effectively when the opportunity arose, “Busi” had a good first half. The hallmark of his usual game was in evidence—simple, short passes that invariably found their target.
Xavi Hernandez: 7/10
A typical Xavi performance. Popped up here, there and everywhere in trying to find the chink of light in the opposition midfield. Was well-marshalled for much of the game, but as ever, most of Barcelona’s probing and forward play came via Xavi.
Andres Iniesta: 7/10
Never really got much time on the ball and was therefore caught in possession a number of times. Although this wasn’t a vintage performance, Iniesta broke through on a few occasions in the second half, pinning Lahm back to his defensive sentry.
Barcelona Attack and Substitutes
Pedro Rodriguez: 5/10
Well taken care of by Alaba, Pedro rarely had a sniff in the match. Despite lots of sharp movement and a spirited desire for work, it was a very quiet game by his standards.
Alexis Sanchez: 6/10
Another who couldn’t escape the shackles of a ferocious Bayern defensive unit. Worked extremely hard at creating openings and bringing teammates into play, ultimately for little reward. Should’ve done better with a second-half cross when well-placed.
Lionel Messi: 6/10
Barcelona’s “saviour” was clearly not fit for this match, and in hindsight it will be seen as a mistake to play him. Surrounded at every twist and turn, it took until the 68th minute of the match for Messi to go on one of his trademark penetrating runs toward the heart of the Bayern defence. It was his quietest game for some time.
David Villa: 4/10
Should’ve been introduced by Tito Vilanova much earlier. Another substitute who had no time to have any influence on the outcome of the match, which was already won by the time he replaced Pedro on 83 minutes.
Javi Martinez: 9/10
A constant thorn in the side of Barcelona, he was another who dominated his area of the park. Biting at the heels of Andres Iniesta in the 33rd minute and barely leaving Sergio Busquets side, he broke up Barcelona’s occasional attacking thrusts with ease.
Arjen Robben: 10/10
My man of the match. Apart from a ridiculous dive towards the end of the game, we saw the best side of Arjen Robben. He almost scored with a toe poke as early as the second minute and a diving header in the second half. He was direct and broke at pace and with purpose whenever possible.
The Barcelona defence were unable to cope with him. He finished his goal with aplomb despite the fact it should never have stood. It was a complete performance from the Dutchman.
Franck Ribery: 9/10
Gave Dani Alves much to think about during the game. Involved often, Ribery mirrored Arjen Robben’s work rate on the opposite side of the pitch and defended from the front. A solid performance from the Frenchman.
The race for next season’s UEFA Champions League is hotting up, and it’s always intriguing to see a new face make a splash on Europe’s elite competition.
We look at some of the lesser-established—but far from lesser-talented—clubs who are on the brink of qualifying and assess who the surprise packages could be.
Add your own in the comments if a particular club has caught your eye!