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Back from the dead

Bayern 'on course' for Manchester date

The good people of Getafe clearly had a premonition. “You’ll never forget Getafe,” read a banner unfurled in the fan block ahead of the UEFA Cup quarter-final return against Bayern. 120 dramatic minutes later, and after the visitors struck twice in the dying embers of extra-time to seal a passage to the semi-finals on away goals, the supporters were proved more right than even they could have foreseen.

“I’ve played everywhere, in Manchester, Madrid, Barcelona and all the usual Champions League venues. They were big games, but never anything like this,” Oliver Kahn reflected almost disbelievingly. The keeper described his 140th European appearance as “an absolute highlight“ of his 20-year senior career. “When we meet up again in ten years’ time, we won’t be talking about Real and United, we’ll talk about Getafe. I can’t remember ever having seen or played in a game quite like that.“

Not a cent

King Juan Carlos and rest of the 16,000 crowd at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez indeed witnessed a match to rank alongside Bayern’s devastating Champions League final defeat in 1999 or their last-minute championship triumph two years later. After Ruben de la Red’s harsh dismissal with just six minutes played, Munich enjoyed a one-man advantage for almost the entire game but still fell behind to Cosmin Contra’s 44th minute solo effort. Only a minute remained when Franck Ribéry netted to send the tie into extra-time.

Far from fading, ten-man Getafe came at Bayern and again looked certain to prevail through a quickfire double whammy from Casquero (91) and sub Braulio (93), but Luca Toni’s brace on 115 and 120 minutes, taking the Italian to ten for the tournament, gave Bayern a semi-final place which had looked exceedingly unlikely for most of the evening. “After we went 3-1 down, I wouldn’t have put a cent on us,” Munich chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge freely admitted later.

Palpable relief

The team was greeted with rapturous applause from the travelling sponsors and fans as they entered the Westin Palace Hotel ballroom for the traditional post-match banquet, but for all the jubilation at the outcome, critical voices were also to be heard. “We’re through, partly because we were so incredibly lucky,” Rummenigge conceded. “I’m no friend of the ‘lucky Bayern’ cliché, but it was definitely the case tonight.“

Hitzfeld noted that De la Red’s sending-off “worked like a stimulant” for the home side, but the Germans’ inability to prise open the defensive Spaniards after the early red card was what upset the personalities at the club most. “We have to do better than that after playing for 110 minutes against ten men,” fumed general manager Uli Hoeneß. “We had our best spell while they still had eleven men. After that, we all thought we could work and run a bit less,” added Rummenigge.

Show of nervousness

Hitzfeld expressed dismay at his players’ failure “to perform when it mattered“ and apparent inability to cope with the pressure: “Our nerves were frayed.“ The decimated home side’s performance was also little short of miraculous. “They played above themselves, they were sensational,” Hitzfeld said admiringly. Finally, the coach criticised his players’ choice of tactics: “We slowed the game down, played the ball sideways, and unnecessarily gave away possession too often.“

“If we play like that, no-one will miss us on the international scene, to put it bluntly,” captain Kahn thundered, demanding improvement for the semi-finals on 24 April and 1 May against Zenit St. Petersburg. “Maybe the fact we were basically out but suddenly slipped in through the back door is a good omen,” Hitzfeld mused, “yet again, we’ve come away with nothing worse than a bloody nose.“

Aiming for Manchester

Everyone at the club agreed that less spectacular progress against the Russian champions would be desirable. “I’d rather we made it to the final through our own attitude and efforts rather than calling on the Good Lord for assistance,” Hoeneß grimaced. Rummenigge rounded off an utterly memorable footballing evening on an optimistic note: “We’re on course – and with a little bit of luck, we’ll hit our target of the final in Manchester.“