Created on 25-04-2008 at 00:00 AM
The UEFA Cup final itself does not take place until 14 May in Manchester, but Bayern now face a final of a different sort at the Petrovsky stadium in St. Petersburg two weeks from now. "It's a final to make the final. It's all or nothing in Petersburg," declared Bayern captain Oliver Kahn after Thursday's 1-1 draw in the semi-final first leg against the Russian champions, who now have the edge going into the second and decisive meeting on 1 May.
"Obviously, it's hardly the best result, as we were hoping to win," reflected chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after the match in front of a capacity 66,000 crowd at the Allianz Arena. "But there's no reason at all for us to hang our heads," the former world-class striker continued, "we've come through equally tricky situations before. I'm convinced we can do it in St. Petersburg.“
Ribéry at the second attempt
Despite the absence of the competition's top scorer Luca Toni, the Bundesliga leaders posed a threat throughout the first half, "and we were truly fantastic for the first half-hour,“ Rummenigge noted. Franck Ribéry netted the rebound after his penalty was initially saved on 18 minutes to crown a storming opening by the home team. "But we neglected to go on and make it 2-0. That was the only thing wrong," general manager Uli Hoeneß mused.
Head coach Ottmar Hitzfeld also declared himself satisfied with the first half, but lamented his side's failure to take their chances. "We were poor on the break a couple of times. We held the ball too long and tried to walk it into the net," the 59-year-old fumed. "We lacked the last ounce of determination.“
Munich's heavy schedule this season took its toll after the restart. "We've played twice a week for several months now, so you'll never manage power football for 90 minutes," Rummenigge commented. "After the break, we thought we could afford to ease back for 20 minutes, but we were duly punished," reflected Hoeneß, remarking on "a certain lack of freshness.“
"We're at the end of our season, but Zenit are just starting theirs,“ Rummenigge agreed. The Russians made the most of the situation and equalised, although the 60th minute leveller through a Lucio own goal owed more to luck than anything else. "We didn't push on any more in the second half, we weren't as solid in the tackle, and we gave Zenit much too much space," summarised Hitzfeld, impressed by the quality of the opposition: "It's obvious they're a class act.“
All to play for
Despite the disappointing draw, the Bayern camp remains optimistic about next week's return. "We'll be at full strength for the second leg," commented Rummenigge, hoping for great things from Luca Toni's return. "We've scored at least once in every game since Christmas. There's still everything to play for.“
Hoeneß reckoned Bayern's chances of making the final were still "fifty-fifty. Luca Toni will come back, and Zenit have three important players suspended.“ Hoeneß felt there would be no repeat of the nerve-shredding drama of the last round - "we're more settled than we were before Getafe" – but still warned the players to expect a tough encounter in Russia: "It'll be an all-out battle in the return.“