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Gary Lineker’s famous quote about football being a simple game and the Germans always win held frustratingly true once again in Tuesday’s Champions League visit to Bayern Munich. Barça played some gorgeous football, largely dominating the proceedings and creating streams of great chances... But two goals in quick succession from the home side just after the break prolonged the losing streak against a side that has caused more than its fair share of pain to the Catalans in recent years.
But despite the setback, there were plenty of positives to take out of the performance. Barça may not have won, but they certainly showed that they are right up there with the very strongest sides in Europe. With just a little bit more fortune, events at the Allianz Arena could very easily have gone the other way.
A pulsating first half had ended goalless, but if either side looked more scoring, that side was unquestionably Barça. With Pedri particularly outstanding in the build-ups, Robert Lewandowski had no fewer than three close chances to score and all three were the kind that we’ve already grown to used to seeing him put away.
Bayern could count themselves very fortunate to have escaped unscathed by their now former star forward on the night of his emotional homecoming.
The intensity in Barça’s game was a joy to behold. Everyone was giving it one hundred per cent and more, battling for every ball and it wasn’t until late in the opening half that Bayern were able to start creating any serious trouble of their own.
Solid defending, with Jules Kounde simply spectacular, meant Ter Stegen was never properly challenged by his countrymen in the first 45 minutes. Leading 10-4 in the shot count, Barça were very much the side on top.
So it all came as a tremendous shock to see the Bavarians score not once but twice shortly after the restart.
Lucas Hernández flung his head onto a corner and that was 1-0. Bayern sensed an opportunity to exploit the sudden lull in the visitors’ confidence, and moments later Leroy Sané was breaking through to double their lead.
16 of Bayern’s last 30 shots against Barça had resulted in goals. They are team that takes its chances. And it had happened again.
Barça had no option but to soldier forward in search of goals, only with the task made somewhat more difficult by Bayern being comfortable with things as they were and keen to take the sting out of the remaining half hour.
Oh, Pedri! In the best of many incursions deep into Bayern territory, the youngster found himself ideally poised to get the first goal back. When that hit the post it was easy to start feeling that this was just not going to Barça’s day.
And those fears would be confirmed. Try as they did, Barça simply could not find a way back.
The result leaves them tied on three points with Inter Milan, who won 2-0 at Viktoria Plzen thanks to goals from Edin Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries. The clash at the Giuseppe Meazza on October 4 is now a bigger date than ever.
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