presented by
Barcelona 3 Bayern 0

Resolute Bayern undone late on

Lionel Messi struck a late brace and Neymar netted in added time to leave Bayern with a mountain to climb if they are to make the Champions League final in Berlin after a 3-0 away defeat to Barcelona in Wednesday’s semi-final first leg, an absorbing contest between two genuinely high-class sides that took a ugly twist at the end from a Munich point of view. Pep Guardiola’s return to his spiritual home did not go according to plan but the star coach and his troops will still pursue the big victory they now need when the sides meet again in six days.

The 95,635 crowd packed into the magnificent surroundings of Camp Nou saw a top-quality encounter in the first half with action at both ends, although the Catalans shaded it on chances and Manuel Neuer made two very big saves. The men from Munich looked solid as a rock for a long spell after half-time, but a moment of defensive carelessness let in Messi to open the scoring on 77 minutes, the Argentine doubling his tally with a deft finish three minutes later and Neymar scoring in the last minute of stoppage time to hand the Catalans a daunting advantage.

The Bavarians’ full focus will naturally be on the return meeting with Barça at a colourful and noisy Allianz Arena next Tuesday, but the German champions are in action again before then when the stadium hosts the Bundesliga meeting with Europe-chasing FC Augsburg on Saturday afternoon.

Star-studded line-ups

There were few surprises in Guardiola’s line-up for the meeting with his former club as Thomas Müller, Xabi Alonso, Juan Bernat and Jerome Boateng returned to action after taking a break from domestic duty at the weekend. Fit-again Javi Martinez took a seat among the subs where he was joined by Mario Götze and former Barça man, backup keeper Pepe Reina.

In welcome news before kick-off Robert Lewandowski was declared fit to play, although the Pole wore a mask after sustaining severe facial injuries in the cup exit to Dortmund a week ago. Less positively Sebastian Rode has now joined an injury roster still including the names of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and David Alaba.

It meant the visitors lined up with Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Boateng and Mehdi Benatia initially in a back three, Alonso and captain Philipp Lahm in defensive midfield, ex-Barcelona starlet Thiago, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Bernat in the centre, and Lewandowski and Müller up front.

Luis Enrique’s star-studded home team featured household names in almost every position with the front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar as the jewels in the crown. Former Gladbach keeper Marc-André ter Stegen was between the sticks with Andres Iniesta alongside ex-Schalke man Ivan Rakitic in the creative department.

Pacy Barça, resolute FCB

In the cautious early exchanges after Nicola Rizzoli whistled play underway, the Italian referee declined to fall for Suarez’ tumble in the box after an innocuous brush with Boateng, Lewandowski’s shot was blocked, and Neuer comfortably gathered a Suarez daisy-cutter.

The first big moment came after 12 minutes when Neuer brilliantly saved from the onrushing Suarez after the Uruguayan sprang Bayern’s offside trap. At the other end Lewandowski glanced a header wide, but the pressure was on the Munich goal and Rafinha cleared Neymar’s shot off the line, prompting Guardiola to switch to a back four now including Bernat.

Munich’s first clear-cut opening arrived on 18 minutes but Lewandowski just came up short of connecting from six yards after combining well with Müller. A fascinating battle of wits now developed with Barça shading the chances, Boateng hacking clear from Jordi Alba and Suarez heading over, but Thiago also curled a shot not far wide of ter Stegen’s goal with the half-hour approaching. Neuer easily dealt with Messi’s free-kick and then saved very smartly indeed from Dani Alves, before Rakitic put the last shot of the half wide.

Messi makes the difference

The second half began with a great opportunity for the visitors when Dani Alves tripped Lewandowski on the edge of the box, but Alonso’s free-kick bounced off the defensive wall. Munich enjoyed a healthy spell with plenty of possession and bite in the tackle, but Barça were impossible to quell completely and Messi warmed Neuer’s gloves from 18 yards out, the keeper raced out of his box to thwart Neymar, and the Brazilian scooped a shot over the target after the Munich defence got into a tangle.

Bayern applied pressure from set plays and ter Stegen dived to save Thiago’s deflected effort, but a lapse in the build-up play out of defence was the Reds’ undoing after 77 minutes when Messi pounced to open the scoring with a low drive. Guardiola sent on Götze for Müller but Messi struck again only three minutes later with a trademark lobbed finish to double the lead. Suarez fired too high as Barça looked to kill the tie, but Neymar made no mistake on the break in the fourth minute of added time to complete the home team’s win.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley