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'Absolutely top-class!'

Super Bayern aim ‘to go one step further'

The party began as soon as the Bayern camp heard the final whistle. Pep Guardiola embraced each of his exhausted but happy players, who went on to celebrate with their fans, hailing the 2-2 draw away to Portuguese champions Benfica and the berth in the Champions League last four it entailed. It was hardly surprising that the loud applause at the traditional midnight banquet seemed to go on for ever.

“Bravo,” said chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in his speech, paying “a huge compliment” to the team and the coaching staff. “We've seen a magnificent match in a great atmosphere,” witnessed also by Uli Hoeneß, who accompanied the team on a Champions League trip for the first time in more than two years. The Bayern camp greeted the former club president with suitably thunderous applause.

'We were the better team'

Earlier in the evening FC Bayern had to earn the right to celebrate by overcoming a tough challenge at the cauldron of a stadium in Lisbon. “We knew it would be hard work,” commented a relieved Philipp Lahm, who made his 103rd Champions League appearance, equalling Oliver Kahn's record for the most appearances by a German player. “The team won through!” Bayern refused to be knocked out of their stride on Wednesday night, be it by the atmosphere or by Raul Jiménez' unlikely opener on 26 minutes, which the tireless Arturo Vidal (38) cancelled out before the break.

“You're doing a magnificent job at the moment,” a proud Rummenigge told the players, who created “enough chances” in the second half to win the match, according to Pep Guardiola. Thomas Müller (52) made the most of one of them, putting Munich in the lead after the break and virtually wrapping up a last four berth. “Benfica proved they're strong. But overall we were the better team,” analysed the delighted scorer.

Manchester or Madrid? Milano!

Talisca's set-piece leveller with a quarter-hour to go had no major impact on the 3-2 aggregate scoreline. The Bavarians are now looking forward to the semi-finals. “We're in wonderful positions in all three competitions,” a delighted Rummenigge commented, praising the remarkable achievement of making the Champions League semi-finals for the fifth time in a row: “That's absolutely top-class!” Skipper Lahm agreed: “Amazing! It shows we've been among the best in Europe in the recent past, and we’re proving it over and over again.”

His coach recalled the past. “We're where we were in each of the last two years,” said Guardiola, who hopes his troops can “go one step further” this time. “Now we’re against Madrid or Manchester,” Rummenigge commented, surveying the line-up of Bayern's potential semi-final opponents. But the chairman is not afraid. “We should give everything to make it to Milan for the second time after 2001.”

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