Created on 13-04-2016 at 22:40 PM by Chris Hamley
Bayern are through to the Champions League semi-finals for the fifth season in a row after a thrilling 2-2 draw away to Benfica in Wednesday night’s last eight return, taking the German champions past the Lisbon giants 3-2 on aggregate. Pep Guardiola’s men were pushed very hard indeed by the battling Portuguese outfit but ultimately had the quality and resolve to prevail.
The 65,000 full house at the Estadio da Luz saw Raul Jimenez open for the home side against the run of play to level the tie on aggregate after 27 minutes, but Arturo Vidal struck a precious away goal and equalised on the night 11 minutes later. With the balance of the tie now firmly in Munich’s favour Thomas Müller made it 2-1 seven minutes after the break, and although sub Anderson Talisca netted Benfica’s second on 76 minutes, the Bundesliga leaders protected the result to the end.
The draw for the semi-finals takes place at UEFA headquarters in Nyon at 11.30 CET on Friday, with the first leg of last four tie to be played on 26 or 27 April and the return a week later on 3 or 4 May. The Bavarians are back in Bundesliga action this Saturday evening at home to Schalke.
Starts for Javi and Xabi
Bayern boss Guardiola made two changes to the team that beat Benfica 1-0 in Munich last week, springing a minor surprise by starting with Robert Lewandowski on the bench alongside Juan Bernat, and naming Javi Martínez and Xabi Alonso in the starting line-up. Kingsley Coman and Mario Götze also began the evening in the dugout.
The visitors lined up with Manuel Neuer in goal behind a back four of David Alaba, Joshua Kimmich, Martínez and captain Philipp Lahm, who equalled Oliver Kahn’s club record with his 103rd appearance in Europe’s elite club competition. Alonso and Vidal anchored the midfield, with Thiago, Douglas Costa, Franck Ribery and Müller in attack.
Vidal’s vital equaliser
The home team went straight on the attack after Dutch referee Björn Kuipers whistled play underway and Kimmich deflected a skimming Eliseu free-kick wide for a corner, but FCB soon settled with Costa and Ribery making promising incursions down the flank.
Müller turned Lahm’s 19th-minute cross only just wide of home keeper Ederson’s right-hand upright and Vidal failed to get power on a free header from Thiago’s chip, but there was a shock for Guardiola’s men in the 27th minute when Jimenez ghosted in between Martinez and Alaba and nodded Eliseu’s swirling cross over the line with Neuer stranded out of his goal.
With the stadium now a cauldron, Mexican dangerman Jimenez drew a sharp save from Neuer, but the visitors hit back and Ederson only just beat Lahm to Alonso’s through ball. The Reds were level after 38 minutes when the home keeper could only palm away Lahm’s fine cross and Vidal battered home the loose ball from the edge of the box. The increasingly influential Chilean shot just over the bar from Alonso’s pass as the teams turned round with the score 1-1 on the night.
Solid second half
Knowing the home side now needed two more goals to prevail, FCB were in a far more comfortable position and moved 3-1 ahead on aggregate after 52 minutes when Müller forced the ball over the line from close range after a towering Martinez header back across goal.
FCB went for the jugular and Costa was denied by Ederson before unluckily hitting the far post with a low shot, although Neuer had to tip André Almeida’s rising drive over the bar. Müller had the ball in the net again after 67 minutes but Alaba, who supplied the final pass, was called fractionally offside.
The otherwise excellent Ederson almost spilled a harmless Vidal effort over his own line, but the Portuguese equalised on the night with quarter of an hour to go when sub Talisca curled a 22-yard free-kick over the Bayern wall and past Neuer’s despairing dive.
Lewandowski replaced Müller for the closing stages but still the Portuguese champions came with Talisca going desperately close from another superb set piece, before Lewandowski saw the last chance of the contest saved by Ederson.
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley