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Analysis: 'We're by no means home and dry yet'

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Analysis: 'We're by no means home and dry yet'

Postby FCBayernNews » Wed Apr 04, 2007 8:15 pm


Bayern's travelling fans were still filling the cavernous interior of the Giuseppe Meazza stadium with songs of celebration as the players packed their kit and boarded the bus to the team hotel an hour or so after the final whistle on Tuesday evening. The applause was continued by the guests gathered in the ballroom at the Grand Hotel Brun when Ottmar Hitzfeld and Co arrived for the traditional post-match banquet just after midnight.

The buoyant atmosphere was prompted by Bayern's resilient display and Daniel van Buyten's last-gasp goalscoring heroics to seal a 2-2 draw, putting the Reds firmly in pole position for the return at the Allianz Arena in a week's time, and opening up the prospect of a first appearance in the last four since 2000-2001. "That was a very, very big result tonight. The door to the semi-finals is wide open now," chairman Karl-Heiz Rummenigge declared in his speech to the assembled company.

<b>Hoeneß: We're favourites now</b>

A 0-0 or 1-1 draw would be enough to see Bayern through to the semis. "We're favourites for the return now. I'd estimate our chances as greater than 50 percent. We have the better cards in our hand," general manager Uli Hoeneß reasoned after the club's first draw in Milan at the fifth time of asking.

However, the Munich camp unanimously agreed that delight at the result cannot be allowed to breed over-confidence. "We haven't qualified for the semi-finals yet," Rummenigge warned. "It ain't over yet," two-goal hero Daniel van Buyten cautioned. "We're by no means home and dry. Milan remain an unpredictable team," Hitzfeld added. "It'll be a knife-edge game in Munich. It's a completely new situation."

<b>Home side's high-tempo start</b>

The first hour on Tuesday served as an emphatic warning to the Bavarians, as the hard-running Italians comfortably contained the visitors and took a not undeserved 40th minute lead through Andrea Pirlo. "Milan maintained a high tempo for a long time and played a very good first half. They were technically perfect," Hitzfeld acknowledged.

"By contrast, we had a few problems piecing together our moves and dropped deep too early. I was a little disappointed," the coach continued. "But the longer it went on, the more we had of the ball." Hitzfeld's substitutions midway through the second half decisively contributed to the change in his side's fortunes: "Our right flank with Salihamidzic and Lell played a big part in the turnaround."

<b>Finale furioso</b>

"Brazzo" Salihamidzic delivered the cross from which Van Buyten netted the 78th minute equaliser, before Kaká restored his side's lead courtesy of an exceptionally dubious penalty awarded by the otherwise unobtrusive Russian match official. Van Buyten was not to be denied on the night and stole in at the far post deep into stoppage time to complete a first brace since arriving at the club. "It would have been fatal if we'd lost to this penalty," Rummenigge commented, praising the players "for fighting back not once but twice. They were determined not to lose."

The 2-2 final score was ultimately a tribute to resilience and endurance. "The team held it together right until the end. We've proved our ability to keep it up for a full 90 minutes," Philipp Lahm argued. Certainly, Bayern looked increasingly strong in the closing phase, in stark contrast to their opponents.

<b>Hitzfeld: Milan fell apart</b>

"They couldn't maintain that tempo for 90 minutes. They fell apart at the end. Nesta, Maldini and Gattuso were desperate for the final whistle, but we were rewarded for battling away," Hitzfeld commented after watching his team repeat the late dominance which served them so well in Madrid in the last round.

"We have a chance of making the semi-finals, and we should take it," Rummenigge concluded, hoping home advantage and the Allianz Arena crowd would provide the decisive edge next week. "We're determined to continue our fantastic journey in the Champions League," Van Buyten declared.
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