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‘Heart-stopping’

‘Morale and character’ see FCB into quarters

The official anthem of the 1990 World Cup in Italy, a rock ballad performed by Gianna Nannini and Edoardo Bennato, tells of “magical nights in the quest for goals.” The lyrics can seldom have felt more appropriate over the last 26 years than on Wednesday evening: in the Champions League Round of 16 return between FC Bayern and Juventus, the German record champions trailed 2-0 at the break, snatched a dramatic late equaliser to send the tie into extra-time, and ultimately prevailed 4-2 on the night to qualify for the last eight.

“It was a very emotional match,” commented chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge afterwards, “it was like the first leg in reverse.” FCB were 2-0 up three weeks ago in Turin, but Juve fought back and made it 2-2. On Wednesday, it was Munich who clawed their way back from a two-goal deficit and earned an additional 30 minutes with a stoppage-time equaliser. “These are heart-stopping matches,” Rummenigge summarised.

Juve’s big surprise

For a long period, it seemed it would be una notte magica only for La vecchia signora from northern Italy. The 70,000 full house at the Allianz Arena saw Paul Pogba (5) and Juan Cuadrado (28) send the smart and disciplined visitors in at the break two goals to the good. “It wasn’t looking good after their second goal, because Juve were magnificent in terms of tactics. None of us expected that beforehand. They took everyone by surprise, at least to a certain extent,” Rummenigge acknowledged.

Bayern were unable to create any openings of note for long spells against the visitors from Turin, who themselves had a handful of chances to settle the tie once and for all. “A third goal would probably have meant the end of our Champions League dreams,” Rummenigge mused. However, driven on by the outstanding Arturo Vidal, the men in red “came back well” midway through the second period. The game then turned once and for all on the substitutions made by both coaches.

Subs make the difference

Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri opted to withdraw Sami Khedira, Alvaro Morata and Juan Cuadrado, the trio that had arguably shaped and controlled the match for the first hour or more. For the home team, Pep Guardiola’s masterstroke was the introduction of Kingsley Coman. The 19-year-old was involved in the build up to Robert Lewandowski’s 73rd-minute strike and provided the assist for Thomas Müller’s equaliser in the first minute of added time. “Thankfully one last cross came over – and the back of the net bulged,” said Müller, reflecting on the inch-perfect cross that provided him with his 35th Champions League goal. Both Munich goals came directly after Juventus substitutions.

Guardiola’s introduction of Thiago in extra time also paid off handsomely. The gifted midfielder had only been on the pitch seven minutes before playing a neat one-two with Müller and side-footing FCB into a 3-2 lead after 108 minutes. Coman wrapped it up two minutes later with an Arjen Robben style finish to make the final score 4-2. “The team showed morale and character,” said Rummenigge. “Games like this bring a team together and can also take you a long way.”

All eyes at Bayern now turn to Nyon and Friday’s draw for the quarter-finals. FCB could be handed another massive task against the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Paris St. Germain, but none of the teams in the draw lack quality. Only one thing is certain: there could well be at least one more “magical night” at the Allianz Arena this season.

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