Created on 16-04-2009 at 00:00 AM
“You can’t make a better start to the Champions League,” Uli Hoeneß said back in September after Bayern resumed battle in Europe’s elite competition with a 1-0 win away to Steaua Bucharest. After a season in the UEFA Cup, the players were “extremely motivated” by returning to the continent’s top table, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge added. Six months later, Bayern’s run came to an end in the last eight against Barcelona.
Jürgen Klinsmann’s summary of the 2008-9 European campaign was “very positive”. His men won six of their matches and drew three, losing just one of their ten games. “We set ourselves the goal of reaching the last sixteen – and we made it to the last eight,” the FCB head coach noted, “we rate as one of the best eight teams in Europe. We’re back on the European stage.”
Stopped only by Barcelona
Bayern finished the group stage undefeated and top of their section with the best overall record of all 32 starters. Results such as a victory in Lyon and a home win over Fiorentina contributed to the second-best group phase campaign in the club’s history. In the first knockout round, the men from Munich swatted Sporting Lisbon aside with imperious ease. A 5-0 win in Portugal and the 7-1 triumph at home in Munich both go down as new club records.
However, the Bavarians then drew Barcelona. The first leg at Camp Nou was “a nasty lesson,” as Rummenigge reflected following a clear-cut 4-0 hiding. It was to be Bayern’s sole defeat in the Champions League this term, but also one of the most sobering in living memory. “Unfortunately, the game in Barcelona was our low point,” said captain Mark van Bommel.
Lessons of Barca
Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with the Spaniards went some way towards making up for the previous week’s nightmare. “We’ve at least partially erased the very poor impression we gave in the first leg,” offered Uli Hoeneß. “We can be satisfied with this Champions League season. Overall, we’ve played well, and it looks positive for the years to come,” reasoned Philipp Lahm.
Klinsmann felt he had seen “plenty of potential, but we ran up against our limitations.” Barcelona were “setting the standards at the moment, and I have them down as favourites to win the Champions League,” the coach continued. There were useful lessons to be learned too, as Klinsmann concluded: “We want to get to where Barcelona already are.”