Bayern Munich vs Chelsea – on the outset this match was a football connoisseur’s delight. From yet another Pep Guardiola – Jose Mourinho showdown to Bayern’s revenge plans to get over their Champions League Final blues – this tie had enough entertainment quotients to whet the appetite of the fans and the neutrals. Historically, Bayern Munich, the five times Champions had never won this tournament. Chelsea, their much fancied opponents, came close to claim it last year but saw their efforts fall well short of the achievement when Atletico Madrid (or should we say Radamel Falcao) crushed their aspirations.
The build-up to the game was intense too. Bayern played out an uninspiring stalemate against Freiburg in their last competitive fixture – enough for couch potatoes to declare that Pep’s marriage with Bayern is a mistake. Chelsea too played out a drab draw against Manchester United away from home. Moreover, they did not field any of their strikers till the second half, suggesting that winning appeared to be their secondary goal in that tie. Personnel-wise Bayern Munich were all set to miss Thiago, Schweinsteiger and Badstuber has been ruled out anyways. All eyes were on Ribéry, the man who dethroned Lionel Messi as the European Footballer of the year and on Juan Mata – who has managed to be the cynosure of all elite club’s transfer target, as per the media that is to say.
Bayern Munich (4-3-3): ManuelNeuer, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Dante, David Alaba, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos, ArjenRobben, Franck Ribéry, Mario Mandžukić.
Chelsea FC (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Ashley Cole, Ramirez, Frank Lampard, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Andre Schürrle, Fernando Torres.
Bayern took the gamble of starting with Lahm in the pivot and leaving Martinez out of the starting lineup. Müller and Kroos were given the duty to pull the strings in the midfield. As for Chelsea, Mourinho did pull out a surprise by benching Terry and installing David Luiz at the heart of defense. Torres was back in the starting lineup and a 4-2-3-1 meant that counter-attack is going to be Chelsea’s mantra for the night.
The game started in an expected fervor where Bayern kept lion’s share of possession and Chelsea were on the lookout to hit Bayern in counter. It was rather refreshing to see Chelsea pressurizing Bayern players albeit in their defending third. The game soon became a battle between Bayern’s all-over-the-pitch closing down and Chelsea’s anointed closing down around their own defending third.
On 8th minute Hazard picked up a loose ball in his own half and started a run that brushed off Kroos, took Lahm out of the equation and smartly released Schürrle who pulled out wide right. Schürrle’s first time low cross did take an awkward bounce. But Torres, unperturbed by the bounce, slammed an unstoppable first time shot into the left corner of Manuel Neuer’s goal. That was a sublime finish to a beautifully orchestrated counter attack.
Bayern kept the pressure up in the battle of pressing-counter pressing and created a series of edgy moments near the Chelsea penalty box. It was another counter attack, this time through Oscar that brought Chelsea near to scoring again. Torres, who picked up Oscar’s through in the right side, tried to lob the ball into the goal instead of putting in a cross into the centre.
Bayern slowly but surely invaded and accumulated the Chelsea half and through Ribéry they came inches close, thrice, to find the equalizer. The first of those chances was expertly saved by Cech and the other two did not trouble the Czech custodian at all.
Towards the end of the first Bayern, who did not have anything to show for their territorial advantage, conjured a magical moment when Robben sidestepped Cole and split the Chelsea defense with a low cross into the centre. Müller was through on goal but the tenacious Cahill put in a last ditched effort to keep the Champions’ League winners at bay.
At the end of the opening half, Bayern had 62% of possession and completed 295 passes(82%) as compared to Chelsea’s paltry 104 passes.
Bayern started the second half in an invigorating fashion. They were soon rewarded for their persistence two minutes into the half, for upping the ante. Kroos took control from the left and released Ribéry who unleashed a howitzer into the back of the Chelsea net. Soon afterwards, it was all Bayern. They threatened to score albeit from outside the penalty box. Javi Martinez was then introduced, replacing Rafinha. This meant that Lahm goes back to RB and Martinez takes his place. In other words, tightening of the screw.
After the hour mark chances somewhat came thick and fast for both sides. Torres could not meet a tantalizing Schürrle cross, Cole denied Müller who played a dinky one-two with Alaba and Robben skewed a long range effort.
Then came a heart-in-mouth moment for Bayern fans when Dante slipped and an alert Schürrle reacted quickly and served Oscar on a platter. Even though Oscar waited and feigned Neuer to the ground, the shotstopper came out on top with a save and Lampard’s follow up shot went over the bar with Neuer nowhere near the goalpost.
On 70th minute Götze was brought in in place of Müller. Probably the move was meant to make the attack more fluidic. The build-up became more open. An Ivanovic header fed by Luiz off a corner hit the crosspiece. Then came a heart-in-mouth moment for the Chelsea fans. An already cautioned Ramires felled Götze and was rightly given the marching orders. Chelsea were down to ten men, unsurprisingly as a red card in a Chelsea game against a Pep Guardiola side seems to be inevitable. Chelsea held on though and scrambled through to play the extra time.
Down to ten men, Chelsea probably took the chance of Bayern’s slumber after restart. Hazard threatened down the right wing twice. The second of those two runs, nearly broke the hearts of Bayern fans as the ball somehow evaded Neuer and hit the back of the net. Replays indicated that Neuer should have done better with that shot.
Both teams brought in changes. Shaqiri came on to replace Robben for Bayern and Lukaku replaced Torres for Chelsea. Into the second half of the extra time, Bayern literally started gunning shotgun pellets at the Chelsea goal. In a span of a minute Cech denied Mandžukić’s and Martinez’s headers from very close range. Then Ribéry released Alaba down the left wing whose cross was teed up by Mandžukić for Shaqiri. But the tenacious Swiss International scurried on to scuff the chance.
Then on 113th minute, Mourinho showed another trick up his sleeve when he replaced Hazard with Terry. Clearly, Chelsea went all out to see the last seven nervous minutes off. At this point of time, it was all Bayern. The ball never went into the other half. Even if it did, Neuer alone recovered it and played back again towards the Chelsea goal. While Neuer was busy recovering the ball for his teammates, playing as a keeper-sweeper, Cech denied Kroos from close range. Then he fantastically saved a brilliantly taken free kick by Franck Ribéry.
With the game into the last minute of the stoppage time, when discussions started doing rounds whether it should be Cech mate or Czech mate in the headlines, Javi Martinez slotted home a David Alaba free kick after it ricocheted off the melee. Perseverance in attack finally paid dividends and Bayern drew level for the second time and deservedly. As a result, Bayern and Chelsea squared off for yet another penalty shootout.