Barcelona torn to shreds by Bayern

German champions score four without reply to leave Catalan giants with an almost impossible task next week


Bayern Munich 4 Barcelona 0: By the end it was a humiliation for Barcelona. They had been outmuscled, outmanoeuvred and, ultimately, outplayed. The damage is considerable and, from here, who can possibly see Bayern surrendering this position and not making it to Wembley on 25 May?

A side of Barcelona’s refinement are simply not accustomed to being outplayed in this manner. They will have found it a deeply chastening experience and Bayern played with such ambition and superiority the team 20 points clear at the summit of German football will have no fears going to Barcelona for the return leg next Wednesday.

Bayern, astonishingly, might actually reflect the winning margin should have been more resounding when they think back on the chances they missed to go with the two goals from Thomas Müller, supplemented by second-half strikes from Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben, that turned this into a rout. Barcelona, so often brutal opponents, know now how it feels to be on the wrong end of a good old-fashioned thrashing.

The only glimmer of hope for Barcelona is that they have won 15 of their 16 La Liga games at Camp Nou, scoring 53 times in the process. Yet Jupp Heynckes’ team are not exactly intrepid travellers. Their away record in Bundesliga stands at 14 wins and one draw from 15 games, 37 goals scored and three conceded. Above all, there is the sense of a Bayern team utterly determined to show they can match, and outdo, the most revered club side there is.

They can be encouraged, too, by Paris Saint-Germain’s performance in Catalonia in the quarter-finals. Of course, that was against a team with no Lionel Messi in the starting XI and, until his introduction, looking like a flower starved of water. Yet there was still hard evidence on that evening to confirm the suspicion that Barcelona’s weakness is in defence, and a team with Bayern’s goals record is entitled to think they can capitalise.

Barely a minute had gone here when there was the first hint of vulnerability in Barcelona’s back line and Robben, played in by Javi Martínez’s back-heel, suddenly had a clear sight at goal. Robben did not appear to notice he had two team-mates free to his left and the chance was wasted but it was an early marker of a side determined to take the game to their opponents. The Bundesliga champions played with great structure, looking particularly menacing on the right of attack, with the penetrative qualities of Robben and Philipp Lahm’s enduring desire to break forward from defence.

Barcelona found it difficult to get going on a heavily watered pitch. It was rare to see this team playing with so little effect in attack. In fact, the team 13 points clear in La Liga mustered only one noteworthy attack in the first half, Pedro Rodríguez crossing dangerously from the right and Dante applying a crucial defensive touch as Messi came in behind him. Otherwise Messi was largely peripheral, often with his hands on his hips, perhaps still struggling for fitness.

Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta were unable to exert their usual influence while Pedro and Alexis Sánchez looked at times as if they were relying on Messi to announce his presence. Barcelona were strangely subdued and they will certainly reflect that Müller’s goal, originating from an over-hit corner, could have been avoided. Robben clipped the ball back across goal and Dante had the height advantage over Dani Alves for the first chance. The header was going wide but Müller was at the far post and Víctor Valdés, not looking wholly convincing, was beaten by a stooping header.

The goal had highlighted Bayern’s superiority in the air and it was the same four minutes after the interval. Three players went for the same ball when Robben whipped a corner to the far post. Two of them wore Barcelona shirts yet neither with great conviction, certainly not compared with Müller’s leap. Gomez was slightly offside when he applied the finishing touch from a yard or two out but, even then, Barcelona did not appeal with the kind of vigour that would usually be associated with them.

They were flat, lacking cohesion, pressed into carelessness – everything that one would normally consider beneath them. Müller flashed a shot wide, then Franck Ribéry had a go from the other side and Robben, hardly known for his aerial prowess, had a free header at goal. The damage inflicted on Tito Vilanova’s side could have been even more considerable.

Marc Bartra, elevated to the Barcelona side because of injuries elsewhere, was suffering a difficult night. Alves, usually such a brilliant competitor, looked ordinary. Gerard Piqué has many qualities but there was not a great deal of leadership out there from the central figure of Barcelona’s defence.

Robben, a constant menace, made it 3-0 with a wonderfully angled shot, running through the inside-right channel, working the ball on to that devastating left foot and taking full advantage of the referee, Viktor Kassai, not penalising Müller’s block on Jordi Alba.

Barcelona had crumpled and it was shocking to see. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Martínez were controlling midfield, Messi becoming increasingly withdrawn, and the “olés” had started even before Müller slid in to add the fourth from the substitute Luiz Gustavo’s cross.