'A great team with great character'

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The applause went on for longer than perhaps it has done on more successful nights for FC Bayern than the bitter one they experienced in Madrid last night. The guests in the ‘Cúpula’ hall of The Westin Palace hotel were proud of their team. They all agreed that, despite their quarter-final exit, the players (and the team behind them) had put in great performances away to the Champions League holders Real Madrid.

“We witnessed an unbelievable game of football,” said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in his traditional address. “We won 2-1 in 90 minutes in Madrid. When you review the whole 120 minutes, I can only take my hat off to the team.” Thomas Müller commented: “When you’re winning 2-1 in Madrid after 90 minutes you must have done something right, even if it wasn’t a perfect performance from us.”

“Laid everything on the line”

Indeed, the men from Munich did everything they could, and more, to make it a successful evening. “We laid everything on the line,” said a disappointed Mats Hummels, who had to “play through the pain barrier a bit” on Tuesday evening – as did his centre-back partner Jérôme Boateng: “We tried everything necessary to win this type of game.” This willingness and desire was one of the many features that chairman Rummenigge referred to in his assessment. “We have a great team with great character.”

“You saw the courage that the team has and our determination to get to the next round,” said Philipp Lahm, who would’ve preferred his final European appearance to be on the 3rd June in Cardiff. Bayern looked to be on top after Robert Lewandowski’s 53rd-minute penalty and again when Sergio Ramos put the ball in his own net in the 77th minute just after Cristiano Ronaldo had equalised.

Bayern up against it

“We can’t blame ourselves. We tried everything but obviously we conceded the goals when we were a man down,” added Boateng. Arturo Vidal was sent off for a second bookable offence shortly before the end of normal time, but Rummenigge was angry that the Chilean’s tackle was “never a foul”. Robben agreed: “We said to Arturo that he needed to be careful with tackles, but he clearly played the ball,” he revealed after the match. The midfielder’s dismissal didn’t help Bayern, as Rummenigge pointed out: “Playing against a team like Real Madrid with a man down is obviously a handicap.”

At first Bayern dealt brilliantly with this setback. For almost the whole first half of extra-time, they seemed unaffected and managed to carve out a few counter-attacks, with Costa going close to scoring a third goal in the 98th minute. But instead Cristiano Ronaldo broke Bayern hearts with a goal just before the half-time whistle. “It was clearly offside,” bemoaned Rummenigge, who felt “immense anger”. Philipp Lahm noted: “We were unlucky in terms of refereeing decisions.” Ronaldo was also slightly offside when he made it 3-2 in the 109th minute, before Marco Asensio’s strike three minutes later sealed the victory for Real.   

Aiming for the double

“We played like men and showed that we’re worthy of playing for FC Bayern,” said Müller, proud of the side’s performance. “It was a respectable exit but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.” Arjen Robben also focused on the positives: “The players deserve a lot of credit, we put in a very good performance.” Nevertheless the Dutchman couldn’t conceal his “frustration and disappointment. I felt we could do it.” To rub salt into the wounds, Manuel Neuer also suffered a foot injury – an assessment in Munich will reveal how serious it is.

Bayern must now conserve their frustration and turn it into positive energy as there are still important assignments to come before the end of the season. “The defeat was bitter but I think we’ve often taken strength from defeats. That’s what FC Bayern are known for. Now’s the time for us to take strength again from this defeat,” said Rummenigge. Ancelotti had a similar perspective: “We need to look ahead to the future now, to the Bundesliga and the DFB Cup, and then next season we’ll have another go at the Champions League.” And Alaba said: “The double is our aim now. We want to finish on a high!”

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