Bayern, Juventus turn in a Champions League round-of-16 tie for the ages
Bayern Munich vs. Juventus was one of the all-time classic European ties, as Pep Guardiola's side fought back from 2-0 down on Wednesday night to win 4-2 in extra time, 6-4 on aggregate. As has been the custom during the Champions League round of 16, we asked Raphael Honigstein and James Horncastle to review.
What a night. A couple of hours after the madness at the Allianz Arena when witnesses reconvened at Schumann's Bar to make sense of the nonsensical, the most-used word was fassungslos. It's one of those German idioms you love so much: It literally translates as "without frame" but what it refers to is the sensation of a picture jumping out of its frame, of reality taking a turn for the fantastical and absurd.
The 120 minutes had delivered so much that seemed simply beyond comprehension. Everybody knew that Bayern were less than rock-solid at the back but the way they conceded two goals -- it would have been three if it hadn't been for a lucky offside flag and Manuel Neuer's wonder-save from Juan Cuadrado -- was so ludicrously bad that you couldn't get your head around it.
This was defensive ineptitude bordering on the offensive, a violation of basic German football principles. No Bayern side could be this terrible in a Champions League knockout round. Could they?
I'd love to tell you that the crowd always believed in their team's ability to right their wrongs and that they never gave up shouting, just as Bayern never gave up playing. But it wouldn't be true. After Cuadrado danced past Philipp Lahm and scored Juve's second, the whole ground thought it was over. You could see it in Pep Guardiola's eyes, the realisation that his project in Munich was coming to an end, and that there was very little anything anybody could do about it.
If the half-time break brought a bit of hope -- it was only two goals to get back on level terms and surely Bayern would up their game -- Juve quickly killed it off again by rendering the home side utterly helpless with a mix of resolute pressing and hard-nosed defending. They were stronger, they were smarter, they were 2-0 up and they were Juventus: a team that knows how to gain an edge and how to protect it.
Where the media sat, obituaries were being written. Up in the lounge where the board sit, plans were readied for a next-day emergency press conference in support of Guardiola, the fallen genius, to ensure the season wouldn't implode altogether now that Bayern's most important target was no longer achievable. The home supporters, meanwhile, sought a release for their frustrations by shouting obscenities at the referee and Juve striker Alvaro Morata, who riled them with histrionics.
As hard as it was to come to terms with Bayern's woefulness at the back -- "a bunch of headless chickens are more organized," Franz Beckenbauer sneered in the TV studio -- it was even harder to grasp that Juventus ended up conceding four goals after the 73rd minute. Bayern had played a bit better after Juan Bernat's introduction at half-time, finding a sense of rhythm, but Gianluigi Buffon looked so cool in his goal. They weren't really troubling him at all.
Robert Lewandowski's header was the proverbial "goal out of nothing," unexpected and undeserved. Then another cross and another header in the last minute. Thomas Müller, 2-2. Only then did the Allianz Arena started to believe. Pep came alive, Bayern had momentum and Juve's resistance crumbled.
Even as I write this, however, I'm still not quite sure it really happened. Bayern have tasted plenty of crazy, last-minute defeats in recent years but to win the tie in such fashion? A good twelve hours later, I'm still fassungslos.
How does it feel to make an Old Lady cry? I would have written sooner but the ink keeps running. The tears stain the page. She didn't deserve this. She was so close. So, so close. Bestiale is how Max Allegri put it. Savage. Brutal. Because they should be in the quarterfinals, Raph. You can admit that, can't you?
It was a mirror image of the first leg except the roles were reversed. This time, as Pep admitted, Bayern were the "fearful" ones. How unexpected. There was everyone thinking Giorgio Chiellini out, Claudio Marchisio out and Paulo Dybala out also meant Juventus out? OK, ultimately they were eliminated but not because of their absentees. As Allegri said on the eve of the game it doesn't matter who goes out on the pitch, it's more important how you go out there and Juventus' approach was spot on.
They were everything they weren't in the first hour in Turin: bold and courageous. They pressed Bayern high, forced errors and were rewarded for their positivity. I can't imagine you were very impressed with Manuel Neuer on the first goal and David Alaba for both, Raph? Where was Mehdi Benatia on the second? I mean what on earth have you done to him? He was one of the best centre-backs in Europe before showing up in Bavaria.
Careless and unsure of themselves, I bet your mind flashed back to Italy vs. Germany at the 2006 World Cup, not to mention Euro 2012. What really stood out for me was just how cool, calm and collected Juventus were when it came to delivering the final pass or applying the finish.
Paul Pogba kept things simple. Alvaro Morata must have been born under the same star as Zibi Boniek, the original Bello di Notte ("Beauty of the Night") because under the lights on big occasions like these in Europe, he almost always performs. To lob Neuer like he did was outrageous. What a goal. Oh, wait! It was disallowed. How was that disallowed! He was onside!
Then how about that coast-to-coast. Twisting Xabi Alonso and Joshua Kimmich inside out. The presence of mind to pick out Cuadrado. Talk being about InnaMorata. It should have been 4-0 before the interval! 4-0! Luckily for you, Neuer redeemed himself with that save on Cuadrado on the stroke of half time. How brilliant was Pogba to wait and wait before rolling it to Cuadrado at the far post. Speaking as a pundit for Mediaset, Arrigo Sacchi said that a fair scoreline after an hour would have been 5-0 to Juventus. I'm not going to dispute that.
Unfortunately, the game then changed. Why couldn't Pep have left Benatia on? Come on, Pep. Did he also have to invoke the immutable law of the ex and throw on Kingsley Coman?
This has been the story of Juve's season in the Champions League. If they hadn't have let Fernando Llorente walk to Sevilla, he wouldn't have scored the goal that meant they finished runners' up in the group behind a Man City side they beat home and away. If they hadn't allowed Coman to go on loan to Bayern... Ifs and buts, I know.
Allegri was also complicit in the game swinging back towards Bayern. In the first leg, he got the approach wrong but his substitutions right. This time it was the opposite. Bringing on an unfit Mario Mandzukic for the inspired Morata was a mistake in an otherwise flawless game plan. Up to that point, he out-coached Pep.
Allegri's reasoning was that Mandzukic could help recover the ball and provide a presence in Bayern's box. He didn't do one, and as Juventus got deeper and deeper as a result, he couldn't do the other either. "Mandzukic is very dangerous in the area," Pep observed. "Less dangerous far away from it and we controlled this situation better."
"When Cuadrado left the pitch too, Juve's threat on the break diminished."
As such, with no "out" to speak of, a red tide became a tsunami. Pep claimed Bayern's win was more an emotional triumph than a tactical one. But adding Coman to the right and moving Douglas Costa just inside of him wrought havoc for Juventus. Their crossing was devastating and as Alex Sandro tired, their influence grew.
Sandro's inclusion had been one of the tactical keys in the first half. He kept Costa quiet while Patrice Evra played almost as a left-sided centre-back, following Thomas Müller everywhere. He didn't really put a foot wrong up until the 90th minute but by the 91st, he'd cost Juventus the tie. Why didn't he just kick the ball away instead of attempting to run his way out of trouble? Why, Patrice? Why? He hardly covered himself in glory for Coman's goal too.
"A ruined masterpiece" was il Corriere della Sera's assessment. The Old Lady leaves the competition but she does so with a continent's respect, doesn't she, Raph?
Wednesday's game has only increased my admiration for the Old Lady, I can tell you that much. The way Juve completely shut down Pep's machine was reminiscent of Serie A's heyday... with the small difference that 1990s Juve or Milan would probably not have conceded six goals over the tie. But I don't want to revel in your pain.
Let me instead tell you that there's a new star in town. Arise, football super brain, Michael Reschke. Bayern's technical director, you see, was the real winner of the night. Bayern didn't just force their way into the quarterfinal with players from the bench, they did it first and foremost with Reschke's buys.
Douglas Costa, one of the few Bayern players performing at normal levels throughout? His transfer. Kingsley Coman, plucked from under Juve's nose for a €7 million loan fee and €21 million option to buy? His transfer. Juan Bernat, the unshowy substitute who helped turn the tide by replacing the woeful Benatia and taking the no-less-woeful Alaba's place on the left? His transfer. (In one of the game's many strange details, the Austrian was much better as a centre-back.) Arturo Vidal, a monster against his former club? Also his buy.
Guardiola will emerge with credit for making the right calls -- as well as heaving the team up to a level where they can tire and eventually beat Juventus even when they're playing rather poorly -- but it was Reschke, 58, who provided the ammunition. (It was also Thiago Alcantara, Pep's welcome gift at Bayern, lest we forget).
Bayern's squad depth and the resulting freshness of the team were the key last night. Unlike in the spring of 2014 and 2015, when injuries slowed Bayern down, this squad seems to be gathering pace. Doubters and believers will both feel that they're vindicated by the chaotic proceedings but one thing's for sure: This last 16 round will go down in Bayern history. Either as the Reds' version of "Algeria 2014," the tie they had to survive to get going in the competition, or as a portent for the inevitable collapse against one the big sides further down the line.
Seconded. All hail Reschke, Raphi.
The €28 million Juventus will receive for a player that they picked up for nothing a year ago will be of some consolation. That said, Reschke's opposite number at Juventus, Fabio Paratici is quite the talent himself.
As for Beppe Marotta, Juventus' general manager, he had some choice words after the game. "Italian football must be protected," he said in protest at the refereeing. He felt that in addition to Morata's disallowed goal, Kimmich could have been sent off for what looked like an intentional elbow on the Juventus striker.
Marotta lamented how decisions like these have an impact that goes beyond the result itself: they affect the co-efficient and finances, the image and the brand of the Italian game. Pep was masterful when Marotta's comments were put to him. "Come on," he sighed. "Juventus are too strong. Please. Come on. Juventus' history is too great to complain about the refereeing. After the first leg I read that I had refereed the game. You can't complain. When you lose, you go out, shake your opponent's hand and learn. When Bayern lost 4-0 to Real or to Barcelona, we complimented our opponents."
Allegri, for that matter, did just that. His take on the refereeing was that "it didn't matter." It shouldn't have, either. Juventus had enough chances to make their advantage even more insurmountable. Stephan Lichtsteiner, Mandzukic and Stefano Sturaro even had gilt-edged opportunities in extra-time.
"We've got to put it behind us," Allegri insisted. The Turin derby awaits on Sunday. Juventus can still do the double and even though they were eliminated from the Champions League last night, as a performance it will only make the club leer over Allegri, put the pen in his hand and ensure he signs a new two-year extension.