For the first time in my life, I was privy to witness a match finish before it had yet to begin. Without a kick of the ball, the press had examined this match, dissected the contents, scratched their chins knowingly, wrote up a few sentences elegant as Mats Hummels’ hair, and closed the book on FC Bayern’s Champions League campaign. A tired and dejected German rekordmeister, led by the incompetent Holger Badstuber, capitulated to Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid last night at the Allianz Arena, drawing the curtains, shutting the blinds, and closing the curtains on their season. Unfortunately, I watched this game on a dodgy internet stream in an ivory tower on the west coast of Canada, and reception isn’t spectacular here, so I didn’t see that game. Instead, I saw this game.
Under a cloud of despair, Mario Gomez kicked off the match. The first five minutes gave substance to our fears, as Heynckes’ men failed to settle, giving away the ball at the slightest opportunity to the white knights of Castilla-La Mancha. In the fifth minute of play, Bastian Schweinsteiger played a truly nightmarish short clearance pass to his international teammate Mesut Özil, who, realizing what team he represented, dealt Karim Benzema a through ball more sublime than the sea of fog, leaving it to Manuel Neuer to gallantly repulse the Frenchman. Encouraged by this promising start, the Merengues pushed forth in numbers, playing the ball nicely between themselves whilst quaintly failing to make the clinching pass that would set one of their number through on goal.
All Los Blancos’ efforts were to little avail. In the 15th minute, Franck Ribery was sent down in the box by a white shirted defender. Referee Howard “cob” Webb
, signed by Florentino Perez from Manchester United for £80million in the summer of 2009, waved away the protests, and beckoned the game run its course. 2 minutes later, the former Marseille winger received a ball from a corner, neatly driving a low first timer into the bottom right corner of Igor Casillas’ net. Titter.
From Ribery’s goal onwards, this match would be all Bayern. In the 18th minute, Mario Gomez assumed control of the ball on the right wing, seductively tipping in a swooping cross to the right flank. Alack, Howard “FIFA World Cup Final referee” Webb ruled that the ball had in this case crossed the byline. While in this instance, the ball had actually crossed the byline, Howard Webb called it, and if that man told me the grass was green I would tell him to pull the other, and additionally comment that it has bells has.
For the rest of the half, Madrid adopted a brand of guerilla warfare as unsuited to the football pitch as Fritz von Thurn und Taxis is unsuited to the microphone, melting into the background at the first sign of any attacking movement from Bayern. Jupp Heynckes’ team baked the meringues in a pie, throttling their offense like Sarah Brandner throttles an unsuspecting Holger Badstuber (Mourinho is Schweini in that picture, by the way), slicing through the vast, empty steppes of midfield like a rocket through the dark nothingness of outer space.
Luckily for Jose Mourinho’s men, die Roten wasted chances like a speedy hare confident of his impending victory against the slow tortoise, who, after all, is so slow, so what harm could a little rest do, yes? In the 28th minute, Bastian Schweinsteiger leisurely sauntered into the left edge of the box, valiantly denying his teammates a pass and nobly striking the ball wide of Iker “San Crossbar” Casillas’ post. He still passes where it matters. In the 30th minute, Real Madrid were given a chance worthy of a mention, as Howard Webb rolled back the years and gave Cristiano Ronaldo a free kick on the edge of the box, blocked by Jerome “unprofessional” Boateng.
The half took its bow in a whirlwind of chances. Two minutes after Boateng’s magisterial block, Los Blancos yet again came close, when Karim Benzema latched onto a cross as high and as right-wing as Rick Santorum (if you don’t know, google is as good a place as any to start), turned David Alaba inside out, and drove a shot straight at Manuel Neuer’s gorgeous, shaven legs. Like Ricky Kaka’s soul, it was saved. In the 40th minute, Mario Gomez was passed into the area with the sort of lofted through ball that only occurs in Silvia Neid’s deepest, darkest, most sexual fantasies. Iker denied the Schwabian’s ensuing shot. In the 45th minute, Gomez was yet again in the thick of the action, falling over like leaves in autumn on the edge of the area and winning a free kick for Toni “why do they call them shorts” Kroos, whose broadside was denied by the wall of white shirted defenders. On this auspicious note, the curtains closed on the first half.
The second half, much like the first, opened not with a bang, nor with a whimper. If there was any sound that could describe the opening of the first half it would probably be an angry shout in the distance accompanied by a door slamming shut, beating as audibly as Manuel Neuer’s heart like a drumbeat on the horizon. In the 49th minute of play, Karim Benzema charged down the left wing, pulled his leg back like a dog standing by a telephone post, locked eyes with the white whale of Bavaria, and was masterfully dispossessed by Jerome Boateng. I have yet to lift my jaw off the floor
In a perfect world, the match would have stopped right here in honour of the former Manchester City mercenary’s unbelievable challenge, but this is not a perfect world, as proved by the existence of Kevin Großkreutz. In the 51st minute, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger passed their way through Madrid’s midfield like Luke Skywalker through the Death Star, dropping the final pass to Arjen Robben, who opted not to capitalize on Bayern’s fine positional play and went for goal himself, ballooning his shot high and wide above the bar. The Dutchman would be made to rue this coruscating opportunity, as two minutes later, Real Madrid embarked on a fantastic (in the pure, unadulterated Dougal McGuire sense of the term) counterattack, going three on two against the Bayern defence, inevitably converting through Mesut Özil after thrice being denied by Manuel Neuer.
Jose Mourinho’s travelling gentlemen took heart from this brief levelling of scores, sallying forth on counterattack after counterattack, threatening on more than one occasion to break our boys in red, yet our defence held firm, repulsing the merengues’ numerous and ultimately numbered sorties with resilience and masses upon masses of blubber. In the 63rd minute, Jupp Heynckes made the worst substitution ever!!!, removing the quietly ineffective Bastian Schweinsteiger for Thomas Müller, pushing Toni Kroos into the holding midfield role. Jose Mourinho, not to be outdone by his fellow ex-Bayern (Ooh, I see what I did there…) coach, hauled off Mesut Özil for left back Marcelo.
Real Madrid seemed to lose all will to survive in the wake of Özil’s egress. In the 70th minute of play, Mario Gomez provided a conveniently convincing metaphor for the German rekordmeister’s season by ballooning a simple chance a matter of inches from goal ten thousand feet up and away into the Bavarian night. Not but a couple of minutes later did Thomas Müller repeat the trick from the semicircular crease at the head of the box that in all earnest should henceforth be referred to as the Zona Müller. The African swallows near Munich are going to have to take a long hard look at their average light speed velocity tomorrow with all those balls they’ll be flitting about with, let me tell you…
By this time, play had already devolved into a smouldering relic of the Dortmund game, but with worse defending and more photogenic opposition. In the 80th minute, Pepe handled the ball in the penalty box so clearly and intentionally that even Wolfgang Stark would be forced to call that one. Not given. In the 86th minute, Howard Webb stunned the world by proving that he could indeed better the trick, denying Mario Gomez a penalty after the German international was floored in the area by a group of no less than six Madrid defenders. Gomez did not take it well. In the 90th minute, all was rectified, as the Schwabian stunner received a sumptuous ground cross from Phillip Lahm and slipped the ball into Iker Casillas’ net. He can slip the ball into my net anytime.
- Mario Gomez almost moved to Real Madrid a few years back.
- Holger Badstuber was mostly invisible throughout this game, and yet we held one of the finest offences in Europe to a single goal. Quietly effective.
- “Unprofessional” (I. E; black) Jerome Boateng will “never be a world-class defender”. Congratulations, Boa, you’ve made it.
- Philipp Lahm!!!
- Luiz Gustavo was yet again magnificent. He’s such a big game player, eh?
- After this match, Toni Kroos is rightly being speculated as a potential starting number 10 for Joachim Löw’s national side at the upcoming Euros. Entirely justified, though I’d rather see him as a starting holding midfielder alongside Khedira, with Bastian Schweinsteiger relegated to the bench.
- Before the match, Cristiano Ronaldo’s stilettos mysteriously vanished. The Portuguese winger was thus pushed into donning Mesut Özil’s boots, complete with small German flag.
- Oh, and by the way, we didn’t really win this match. It was all a Barcelona conspiracy.
- “No, look, winning this game, right, was playing right into Mourinho’s hands, ‘cos he’s got an away goal and his teams are at their most dangerous when they lose with away goals. So by winning, Bayern actually lost, see.” – everyone, everywhere, ever.
- 1-0 Ribery (17′)
- 1-1 Özil (53′)
- 2-1 Gomez (89′)
- FC Bayern:
- Thomas Müller (Schweinsteiger, 61′)
- Real Madrid:
- Marcelo (Özil, 69′)
- Esteban Granero (di Maria, 79′)
- Gonzalo Higuain (Benzema, 84′)
Team stats (Bayern-Madrid):
- Ball possession: 55% – 45%
- Shots taken: 15 – 15
- Corner kicks: 6 – 4
- Fouls committed: 20 – 14
Leading player stats (Bayern-Madrid):
- Shots taken: Mario Gomez (6) – Cristiano Ronaldo (5)
- Fouls committed: Gustavo/Gomez (4 each) – Arbeloa/di Maria (3 each)
Next match: Saturday at Bremen (Bundesliga), 3.30 p.m
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Published with permission from Red Robbery.