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Bayern's road to the final in Madrid

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Bayern's road to the final in Madrid

Postby FCBayernNews » Thu May 20, 2010 6:45 pm

Bayern's process to the Champions League final was a rollercoaster ride, beginning unexceptionally, later almost turning to disaster, and eventually ending in triumph. It's a long time since the record German title-holders have tortured the nerves of their fans so regularly and acutely. But it's also a long time since Bayern won over as many neutrals as they have done during this remarkable 2009-10 season.

It all began straightforwardly enough with a 3-0 win for Louis van Gaal's side in their opening Group A match against Israel's Maccabi Haifa, an easy win clinched by two goals from Thomas Müller and one from Daniel van Buyten. Bayern topped the group table and stayed there after a 0-0 draw with Juventus at the Allianz Arena. "I don't think we've seen a better game all season," said the coach afterwards, although he was concerned about missed opportunities: "We had many clear-cut chances - it's a shame we didn't take any of them."

Double trouble against Bordeaux

But in the space of two weeks, Bayern's solid start had been thrown into turmoil by back-to-back defeats at the hands of French champions Bordeaux. Munich were drawing 1-1 in Bordeaux when Müller received a second yellow card in the 30th minute, and they were reduced to nine men two minutes from the end when Van Buyten saw red as well. "That was not worthy of a top team," captain Mark van Bommel said of his team's listless display.

It was to get worse as, without the suspended Van Buyten and Müller, Bayern lost 2-0 to the same opponents two weeks later at the Allianz Arena. With just two group matches left Bayern were bottom of the table with four points, far behind Bordeaux with 10 and Juventus with eight. "We're not finished, we still have some kind of chance," Van Gaal said - but to progress his team also needed help from Bordeaux.

About-turn in Turin

Laurent Blanc's side did their bit, beating Juventus 2-0 while Bayern struggled to a 1-0 win at home against Haifa, thanks to a 62nd minute Ivica Olic strike. "You can see our team isn't displaying the confidence it ought to," noted president Uli Hoeneß. However, the result left Bayern's chances of reaching the knock-out rounds in their own hands in the final group game against Juventus in Turin.

As the players travelled across the Alps at the beginning of December, they knew only a win would be good enough to progress. When David Trezéguet gave the home side the lead in the 19th minute, it seemed to be all over. But then Bayern began a startling resurrection - not only in this match but across the club's season as a whole. When Olic won a penalty in the 30th minute, Jörg Butt nervelessly beat Gianluigi Buffon to level the scores.

In the second half it was one-way traffic as Bayern pressed the home side back into their own half, and further goals from Olic, Mario Gomez and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk sealed an incredible 4-1 victory. "It was a magical night," enthused club chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as Bayern qualified for the round of 16 behind group winners Bordeaux.

Luck on their side

Bayern entered the knock-out stages of the Champions League transformed from their earlier struggle for form - and perhaps as importantly, enjoying a healthy slice of good fortune. That much was clear from the goal that won the home leg against Fiorentina in the round of 16. After Arjen Robben's 45th minute penalty was cancelled out by an equaliser from Per Kroldrup five minutes after the interval, all Bayern's efforts to force a winner seemed in vain - until, a minute before the end, Olic found Miroslav Klose in a position that looked suspiciously offside, but the German international striker's goal was allowed to stand.

In Florence's Artemio Franchi Stadium three weeks later, Juan Vargas gave the home side a 28th-minute lead, before the game was decided in an unforgettable 11-minute second-half spell. When Stevan Jovetic scored a second for Fiorentina in the 54th minute, Bayern were in danger of slipping out of the competition, but six minutes later Van Bommel's long-distance drive levelled the tie on aggregate. In the 64th minute Jovetic's second goal roused the home fans to a frenzy, but they were silenced less than 60 seconds later as Robben went on a mazy run before curling his shot into the corner of the net from 30 metres out, clinching victory for Bayern on away goals despite a 3-2 defeat on the night.

Revenge for Barcelona

Bayern were very much outsiders after being drawn against long-time rivals Manchester United in the quarter-finals, and even more so after England star Wayne Rooney fired the visitors into the lead at the Allianz Arena after just 63 seconds. But with enthusiastic backing from the home fans, Bayern recovered to dominate the game and deservedly equalised after 77 minutes through Franck Ribéry's deflected free kick. Then, in an uncanny echo of United's 1999 Champions League final win in Barcelona, Olic rocked the stadium to its foundations when, with the last attack of the game, he wriggled free of the defence and beat Edwin van der Sar to complete a 2-1 win.

Rooney had limped off injured in Munich and it was a surprise to find him in the starting line-up at Old Trafford the following week. Again Bayern found themselves on the back foot right from the kick-off, as Darron Gibson drove home a long-range effort in the third minute, followed four minutes later by a second from Nani. When the Portuguese winger scored again in the 41st minute, Van Gaal's team seemed to be in danger of humiliation.

But when Olic popped up to beat Van der Sar from close range seconds from the interval, Bayern suddenly saw a chance to get back into the game - especially after United's Brazilian defender Rafael was sent off in the 50th minute after receiving a second caution for hauling down Ribéry. From then on there was only one team in it, and Robben clinched the visitors' semi-final berth in magnificent fashion, volleying Ribéry's corner crisply into the net from the edge of the penalty area.

Commanding display in Lyon

After coming back to win on away goals in both the previous rounds, Bayern demonstrated their command in the semi-final against French cracks Olympique Lyon, conquerors of Real Madrid. Despite losing Ribéry to a red card for a mistimed challenge in the 37th minute of the first leg in Munich, the home team created chance after chance and eventually Robben secured the victory with a long-range effort in the 69th minute.

Even without Ribéry's influential presence, Bayern were far too good for Lyon a week later at Stade Gerland. Olic was on blistering form, making it a personal triumph with goals in the 26th, 67th and 78th minutes. Nine years after their last Champions League triumph in 2001, Bayern had deservedly ridden their luck and capitalised on steadily improving form to reach the final again.
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