Created on 01-04-2014 at 22:36 PM
Tuesday’s big Champions League quarter-final first leg clash between Manchester United and Bayern ended all-square at 1-1 after Pep Guardiola’s men dominated the play but came up against a stubborn home team who belied their disappointing league position with a defensive performance full of bite and discipline. The odds still favour the Bundesliga champions thanks to the priceless away goal they take into the second leg in eight days’ time, although goalscorer Bastian Schweinsteiger will miss that match with a ban after collecting a second yellow card in the last minute.
The boisterous 75,199 full house at Old Trafford saw Bayern utterly dominate possession and create any number of half-chances in a one-sided first half, but the best opening of all came at the other end when Danny Welbeck bore down on Manuel Neuer’s goal, only for the keeper to make a stunning reflex save. The game took an unexpected turn on 58 minutes when Nemanja Vidic headed the home team into the lead, but Schweinsteiger levelled in the 67th minute from a fine flowing move. For for all the treble winners’ efforts the game ended in stalemate and with Munich down to ten men following the scorer’s harsh dismissal.
The Bundesliga champions are next in action away to Bavarian neighbours FC Augsburg on Saturday before the decisive European quarter-final return in Munich on Wednesday night.
Müller up top, Mandzu and Götze in reserve
After vigorously rotating his squad for the home meeting with Hoffenheim at the weekend Guardiola restored no fewer than eight regulars to his line-up for the clash with the English Premier League champions. FCB were without the suspended Dante and injured trio Thiago, Diego Contento and Holger Badstuber, and began with the likes of Mario Mandzukic and Mario Götze on the bench.
The holders started with Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and David Alaba in the back four, captain Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger in central midfield, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben out wide, and Toni Kroos tucked in behind Thomas Müller up top.
Under-fire United manager David Moyes clearly decided there was nothing to lose in a home leg against the current champions of Europe and sent out an attacking line-up including dangermen Wayne Rooney, Welbeck and Antonio Valencia, with 40-year-old veteran Ryan Giggs pulling the midfield strings.
Goalless first half
After Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo blew for kick-off on a fine and dry evening in the north-west of England the visitors attempted to impose their possession game from the off with the home team lying deep and looking for chances on the break. Welbeck did have the ball in the net after four minutes but the England striker had clearly handled in the build-up and FCB continued building up a good head of attacking steam, Ribery causing early trouble in the box, Robben curling a left-foot shot narrowly wide of the upright, and Müller just failing to connect with the Dutchman’s cut-back.
Robben’s 12th-minute shot was deflected wide for a corner as the winger and Ribery continued tormenting the home defence, with Ribery flashing a drive past the post and Robben coming up only just short of meeting the Frenchman’s reverse chip. Alaba increasingly joined in the attacking moves and the Austrian’s cross-cum-shot flashed across the face of David de Gea’s goal on 25 minutes.
Robben drew a superb diving save from de Gea with a trademark curling effort five minutes later, before Welbeck shot straight at Neuer on a rare United foray. FCB raced back up the field and it was panic stations in the home box as Ribery darted towards goal, Rio Ferdinand throwing out a timely leg to deny the onrushing Müller. Full-back Alex Büttner appeared to handle a Rafinha shot in the box but Mr Velasco Carballo waved play on, and Nemanja Vidic showed plenty of composure to prevent Müller getting his shot away.
But for all Bayern’s dominance and a string of near misses around the home goal, the biggest chance of the lot fell to Welbeck on 40 minutes, the striker outpacing Boateng onto Rooney’s fine through ball but seeing his effort brilliantly kept out by Neuer.
Basti’s precious strike
Schweinsteiger half-volleyed the first chance of the second period wide of de Gea’s near post, but Moyes’ team were less supine now and the contest was much more even affair for a spell. Neuer headed clear with Rooney bearing down on him and Welbeck failed to get enough on a goalbound header, before Büttner acrobatically cleared a whipped Ribery cross.
It was end to end stuff as the game caught fire with the hour approaching, with Kroos failing to thread a shot through a forest of United legs, before the home side took the lead on 58 minutes when Vidic escaped his marker and twisted in the air to glance a header from a Rooney corner past Neuer and in at the far post.
Neuer had to fist clear with Welbeck in the offing, prompting Guardiola to bring on Mandzukic for Müller just after the hour. De Gea comfortably saved Boateng’s 35-yard belter, but the holders were level after 67 minutes when Schweinsteiger side-footed Mandzukic’ unselfish lay-off into the roof of the net from Rafinha’s teasing cross.
Robben’s curler passed just inches wide of the far post, with Götze taking over from Kroos for the last quarter of an hour, but Moyes’ men were showing great determination now and chances were still hard to come by. Robben’s low shot on the turn from Götze’s pass skidded agonisingly wide of the post and Ribery played a lay-off in the six-yard box just behind Mandzukic, but there was a last-minute setback for Bayern when Schweinsteiger, yellow carded earlier in the match, clattered into Rooney and was sent off on a second bookable offence.
Chris Hamley reporting from Old Trafford for fcbayern.de