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Bayern 3 Manchester United 1

Resilient Reds march into semi-finals

On-fire Bayern responded magnificently to adversity in Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final return at home to Manchester United, coming back from a goal down to win the match 3-1 and the tie 4-2 on aggregate. The victory puts the holders through to the last four and means FCB remain on course to become the first team to retain Europe’s premier club trophy.

The crowd at the Allianz Arena, restricted to 67,300 due to a UEFA sanction, saw an attacking Bayern line-up tirelessly prod and probe in the quest to prise apart the packed United defence, but the Premier League side held firm relatively comfortably in a first half largely devoid of chances. The contest exploded into life just short of the hour when Patrice Evra opened for United, but Mario Mandzukic headed the holders level just over a minute later, and Thomas Müller handed Guardiola’s men the lead with a close-range finish 20 minutes from time. Arjen Robben made the game safe with the third on 76 minutes as Munich ultimately coasted to a famous victory.

The next big date for the men from Munich is Friday’s draw for the last four, where the holders will meet one of Madrid pair Real and Atletico or 2012 winners Chelsea. The Bavarians are next in action on Saturday evening at home to domestic arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund, a fixture with little bearing on the Bundesliga standings but an all-important test of national status and prestige.

Guardiola opts for attack

Four days after fielding an unfamiliar line-up for the Bundesliga trip to Augsburg, Guardiola reverted to his strongest available team by bringing in eight new faces. Only Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos and Mandzukic survived from the weekend derby defeat.

Compared to the first leg in Manchester eight days ago there were only three changes to the FCB team, with Mario Götze and Mandzukic coming in for suspended duo Javi Martínez and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Rafinha dropping to the bench to make way for Philipp Lahm at right-back.

Because of the injuries to Thiago, Xherdan Shaqiri, Tom Starke, Diego Contento and Holger Badstuber, Guardiola included youngsters Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Mitchell Weiser, Patrick Weihrauch and reserve keeper Lukas Raeder in the matchday squad.

It all meant the home side lined up with Neuer in goal, Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Dante and David Alaba in defence, Kroos in the holding position, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery out wide, Müller and Götze in central midfield, and Mandzukic up top.

Despite doubts over Wayne Rooney’s fitness in the build-up, United boss David Moyes duly fielded the talismanic England striker in a team showing four changes compared to the Old Trafford clash: Patrice Evra (eligible after suspension), Shinji Kagawa, Darren Fletcher and Chris Smalling took over from Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Alexander Büttner and the injured Marouane Fellaini.

Dour first half

After Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson blew for kick-off in an atmosphere crackling with tension and anticipation at the Allianz, the match rapidly settled into the expected pattern with FCB controlling the ball and United pulling men back with the intention of breaking at pace.

Ribery and Rooney traded half-chances in the first ten minutes, before Robben flashed an initial sighter across the face of David de Gea’s goal with the quarter-hour mark approaching. The Dutchman scooped his next shot over the bar, before a nervy moment for Guardiola’s side when Antonio Valencia had the ball in the net but was ruled offside from Rooney’s cross.

Ribery was probing diligently and sparked a scramble in front of De Gea with a reverse pass to Müller, before the Frenchman teed up Alaba only for the Austrian to aim far too high. Ribery hit the side-netting from long range with the half-hour approaching, but the men in red were finding clear-cut openings hard to come by and 38 minutes were on the clock before Kroos lolosed off the next off-target effort. Robben upped the tempo with half-time approaching but his shot was deflected for a corner, with Boateng spooning the last chance before the break over the bar as the sides turned round with the game still a goalless stalemate.

Triple strike seals victory

Vidic was left doubled up on the turf in pain after Mandzukic crashed the first chance after the restart straight into the Serb’s midriff, but just as in the first leg Moyes’ men showed much more enterprise as the second period wore on. Kagawa drew a save from Neuer before a stunned silence briefly enveloped the ground on 57 minutes when Evra strode onto the loose ball from a Valencia centre and thumped an unstoppable left-footed shot past Neuer from the edge of the box.

Bayern were stung but the swift and deadly response came just 69 seconds later, Ribery floating over a cross towards the United penalty spot and Mandzukic rising above Evra to angle a header past De Gea. The action came thick and fast now as both sides went for a crucial second, Ribery firing into the side-netting and Götze heading straight at De Gea, before the Germany man gave way to Rafinha on 65 minutes.

The ground erupted three minutes later when Müller adeptly turned Robben’s centre over the line from close range after the Dutchman teased his way past Evra down the right. Moyes sent on Chicharito Hernández for Fletcher, but the tie swung decisively Bayern’s way on 76 minutes when Robben cut inside from the right and shot at goal, the ball taking a wicked deflection off Vidic and spinning inside the far stick past De Gea’s outstretched arm. The contest looked done at dusted at 3-1, with Claudio Pizarro replacing Müller for the closing stages, and although the visitors bravely kept up the fight, Bayern were not to be denied after a second-half full of spirit and determination.

Live match report forfcbayern.deby Chris Hamley

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