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'Not entirely easy’

Advantage Bayern, but tie remains 'tense’

As always, the FCB stars made their way over to the south terrace faithful at the end of the match, but on Tuesday evening the players were visibly uncertain how to react. Was the 1-0 victory over Benfica cause for celebration, or rather a case of lamenting what might have been? The Reds had a few chances to put themselves into an even better position for next week’s Champions League quarter-final second leg, “but it could also have finished 1-1,” noted Manuel Neuer. Whatever, FC Bayern have definitely earned a slight advantage. “But it’ll be a tense return match,” Thomas Müller advised.

Tuesday’s clash set off at a breathless pace. Arturo Vidal, once again hitting peak form at just the right time, nodded home Juan Bernat’s precise cross to hand FCB a second-minute lead. The home side were in full flow, inspired by Thiago and Vidal’s sweeping diagonal passes to release the wide players. A second goal appeared only a matter of time. “We had it totally under control,” mused Joshua Kimmich, who started at centre-back instead of Javi Martínez.

But with 20 minutes played Bayern faded a little and Benfica fought their way into the contest. “They adapted to our positional play and the back four moved extremely well as a unit. That made it hard for us,” said Neuer. Müller agreed: “They showed they have the ability to hurt us. They’re not just a bunch who happened to have been cobbled together, they know what they’re doing. But we were the better team overall.”

No easy matches

As the game went on the Portuguese record champions mounted a handful of dangerous incursions into the FCB box, although Neuer fortunately kept a clean sheet, meaning that a goal for Munich in Lisbon next week would leave Benfica needing three to reach the semis. “We’re in a very, very good position, and we should make sure we use it,” urged captain Philipp Lahm, “sometimes you have to be satisfied with a 1-0 win. It’s the Champions League quarter-finals, you never win by just turning up.”

Robert Lewandowski, who declined a gilt-edged chance to make the score 2-0 at the death, feels FCB can thrive in Lisbon. “We’ll create chances. We’re Bayern Munich and have to go out and prove we’re the better team.” As a minor bonus, Benfica will be without dangerman Jonas due to suspension. “We’re not upset about that,” admitted Müller, before bowing out with a neat summary: “It was hardly sparkling stuff tonight, the performance lacked a little gloss. But it’s not entirely easy when you’re facing Benfica.”