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United, Lyon conquered

Bayern’s road to the final in Madrid

Bayern’s process to the Champions League final was a rollercoaster ride, beginning unexceptionally, later almost turning to disaster, and eventually ending in triumph. It’s a long time since the record German title-holders have tortured the nerves of their fans so regularly and acutely. But it’s also a long time since Bayern won over as many neutrals as they have done during this remarkable 2009-10 season.

It all began straightforwardly enough with a 3-0 win for Louis van Gaal’s side in their opening Group A match against Israel’s Maccabi Haifa, an easy win clinched by two goals from Thomas Müller and one from Daniel van Buyten. Bayern topped the group table and stayed there after a 0-0 draw with Juventus at the Allianz Arena. “I don’t think we’ve seen a better game all season,” said the coach afterwards, although he was concerned about missed opportunities: “We had many clear-cut chances – it’s a shame we didn’t take any of them.”

Double trouble against Bordeaux

But in the space of two weeks, Bayern’s solid start had been thrown into turmoil by back-to-back defeats at the hands of French champions Bordeaux. Munich were drawing 1-1 in Bordeaux when Müller received a second yellow card in the 30th minute, and they were reduced to nine men two minutes from the end when Van Buyten saw red as well. “That was not worthy of a top team,” captain Mark van Bommel said of his team’s listless display.

It was to get worse as, without the suspended Van Buyten and Müller, Bayern lost 2-0 to the same opponents two weeks later at the Allianz Arena. With just two group matches left Bayern were bottom of the table with four points, far behind Bordeaux with 10 and Juventus with eight. “We’re not finished, we still have some kind of chance,” Van Gaal said – but to progress his team also needed help from Bordeaux.

About-turn in Turin

Laurent Blanc’s side did their bit, beating Juventus 2-0 while Bayern struggled to a 1-0 win at home against Haifa, thanks to a 62nd minute Ivica Olic strike. “You can see our team isn’t displaying the confidence it ought to,” noted president Uli Hoeneß. However, the result left Bayern’s chances of reaching the knock-out rounds in their own hands in the final group game against Juventus in Turin.

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