Created on 17-02-2015 at 22:35 PM
Despite losing Xabi Alonso to a second yellow card 25 minutes from time, battling Bayern salvaged a goalless draw in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg tie away to Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night, leaving the Bavarians in pole position to qualify for the last eight. The match, played in Lviv some 1,000 km away from Donetsk due to the hostilities in east Ukraine, featured plenty of aggressive defending from the fired-up home team, but the visitors will rue not taking at least one of their decent first-half openings.
The 35,000 full house at the Lviv Arena saw Pep Guardiola’s men dominate first half possession and create almost all the chances, but the Ukrainians defended resolutely and the game remained goalless at the break. Shakhtar showed a willingness to mix it physically after the restart and it was patchy fare for a long spell, before the plot took a dramatic twist on 65 minutes when Champions League centurion Alonso was dismissed for a second bookable offence. The Ukrainians pressed for a winner but FCB refused to buckle and deservedly came away from a difficult evening with a very useful result.
The Reds return to league action away to Paderborn next Saturday afternoon, with the return against Shakhtar at the Allianz Arena not due until Wednesday 11 March in just over three weeks’ time.
Ton up for Xabi
Three days after Bayern’s 8-0 demolition of Hamburg in the Bundesliga, Guardiola made three changes to his starting line-up, with Jérôme Boateng, Franck Ribéry and Xabi Alonso replacing Holger Badstuber, Mehdi Benatia and Robert Lewandowski. Midfield ace Alonso thus made it a century of appearances in Europe’s elite club competition, but Benatia was a late withdrawal with injury and failed to feature in the matchday squad.
The FCB line-up comprised Manuel Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Boateng and David Alaba in a nominal back three, Alonso in the holding role, Juan Bernat and captain Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield, Arjen Robben and Ribery on the flanks, and Thomas Müller and Mario Götze up front.
Goalless first period
After Spanish match official Alberto Undiano Mallenco whistled play underway on a bitterly cold night in west Ukraine, the Bundesliga leaders quickly settled to the task and Schweinsteiger volleyed a scissors-kick just wide of home keeper Andriy Pyatov’s goal after Robben motored past three defenders. The Dutchman set up the next chance on 11 minutes only for Müller to get no purchase on a shot that dribbled across the face of goal.
Alonso’s floated free-kick from the left landed in Pyatov’s arms, but although FCB continued to control the play, but by the midpoint of the half Shakhtar looked to have shaken off the rust caused by a 69-day break from competitive action and Yaroslav Rakitskiy loosed off his team’s first shot on goal, a free-kick gathered by Neuer at the second attempt.
It was a shade tasty at times with Alonso and Rafinha picking up bookings, before Müller volleyed a tricky chance over the bar on the half-hour from Ribery’s chipped lay-off. Ten minutes passed before the next opening but Ribery aimed too high from Robben’s lay-up and the half ended without a goal, meaning the men from Donetsk have still yet to concede in the first half in this season’s competition.
Battling second half display
The Reds continued where they left off at the start of the second half, but Alonso was hustled off the ball from Schweinsteiger’s pass and Müller got underneath a headed opportunity. The Ukrainians upped the level of aggression now and the play was frequently bogged down in midfield, with Douglas Costa lucky to escape with a yellow after clearing elbowing Ribery in the face.
There was a big moment on 65 minutes when Mr Mallenco adjudged Alonso’s saving tackle worthy of a second yellow card and the Spaniard was sent off. Badstuber replaced the sacrificed Müller as Munich dug in for the last 20 minutes, with Lewandowski taking over from Götze a few minutes later.
Both sides went in search of a winner now with Shakhtar throwing on fresh forwards in the last ten minutes, but despite a scramble or two at either end the defences held firm through to the final whistle.
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley