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Captain’s warning

Van Bommel: We’ve won nothing yet

Mark van Bommel has been in a few footballing battles in his time, but Wednesday evening’s extraordinary clash away to Manchester United will surely live long in the 32-year-old’s memory. At 3-0 down “we were basically out,” he confessed, but Van Bommel and Co showed all the grit and determination which has characterised their recent displays to turn the tie around and qualify for the semi-finals. At the traditional post-match banquet, spoke to the Bayern captain about a remarkable match at Old Trafford, and how he feels about missing the first leg of the semi with suspension.

Interview: Mark van Bommel Mark, how does it feel to be one of the four best teams in Europe?
Mark van Bommel: It’s a very good feeling. It’s my third Champions League semi-final, which is not bad at all.

It was another dramatic match. Why did Bayern struggle in the first half?
We weren’t good at all. We allowed ourselves to be pressed back right from the start, and we were always a yard short in the tackles. We only began finding our feet after we were 2-0 down, and when we scored before half-time, we were back in the game.

But Bayern were very astute after half-time, especially when you went a man up.
That’s right. The extra man doesn’t always give you an advantage, as we saw last Saturday against Schalke, when we were down to ten men but prevented them creating anything at all. We solved the problem well, with Franck and Arjen hugging the touchlines, we let the ball do the work, and waited patiently for our chance. The 3-2 scoreline was about right, although at 3-0 down, we were basically out.

The 3-0 scoreline awakened memories of last year in Barcelona…
Yes, but by then we’d pieced together a couple of decent passing moves, and Ivi had a great chance when we were only two down. We created nothing in Barcelona. We rode our luck today, quickly pulling a goal back before half-time, but then we showed tremendous character. We’ve lost, but it’s a nice defeat.

Character, desire and passion – are these the key attributes in the big games?
Yes, we keep demonstrating that. I’ll emphasise this: we’re a functioning team.

You’re suspended for the first leg of the semi. How disappointing is that?
It’s a shame. I don’t think it was a booking, but whatever, I have to live with it. We covered for Bastian in the first leg against Manchester, and it won’t throw us out of our stride.

It’s Bayern’s first semi-final since 2001. Dreaming of the trophy yet?
No! We visit Leverkusen on Saturday, so there’s no time for dreaming. We’re top of the league, we’re in the cup final, and we’re through to the Champions League semi-finals, but we’ve won nothing yet. And I’m warning us right now to beware Olympique Lyon, a very difficult team to play football against.

You’re actually not flying back to Munich now, you’re pitching camp near Leverkusen ready for the game. Are you happy with that?
Yes, it’s a good idea. All we’re thinking about now is Leverkusen, we have to focus completely on them. It’ll be an even more difficult game than the visit to Schalke, and we can’t afford any more slip-ups in the league. It's our own fault that we’re only a point clear at the top, and not a couple more. We want to win the league, which means we have to win in Leverkusen to keep Schalke behind us.