Bayern Bounce Basel
Allianz Arena, March 13 – Mario Gomez scored four goals, Arjen Robben added a brace, and FC Bayern München trounced past FC Basel 7-0 on their way to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League.
The Bavarians are beginning to gather momentum at the right time, as important matches in all three of their competitions are coming up. Only a week ago, the press and their fans were worried if the season would be lost.
Just like on Saturday in their 7-1 victory against Hoffenheim, Bayern were attacking from the first whistle. They didn’t score in the first five minutes, but it took them 11 minutes. A deflected pass from Thomas Müller bounced to an unmarked Robben and he easily beat goalkeeper Yann Sommer. The aggregate score was now tied at 1-1 and so now the teams could start fresh.
Basel settled down and were able to quell the initial Red Wave that head coach Heiko Vogel expected his Swiss side would encounter. They held the advantage as the away team, as any goal they could score would count twice. But the new defensive formation from Saturday of Philipp Lahm moving over to the right side and David Alaba taking Lahm’s normal position on the left has reinvigorated the back line. Together with Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng, the defense kept the dangerous Basel attack away from goal in the opening half.
In the meantime, the German record champs kept coming and they were rewarded with their hustle. A pass for Robben seemed too long, but the Dutchman chased it down, kept it in play, worked his way down the corner, and crossed it in front of goal finding Müller upfront. He put his foot on the perfect flank, and it was by Sommer for a 2-0 lead in the 42nd minute. Basel may have hoped that was it and their rude hosts would be happy to go into the locker rooms with that lead. No sir.
A silly foul in front of the area led to a Bayern free-kick. Toni Kroos’ attempt was wide left, Badstuber was able to get a foot on it and bring it back past Sommer. The free ball got by Alaba, but not Super Mario. 3-nil and the party was on as the teams headed into the break.
If there was a positive for the Swiss champions, they would need only two goals in the second half, somehow hold off the Bayern Goal Machine and they would make the improbably comeback and continue to be the Cinderella story of this year’s tournament.
However, they forgot their opponents have found their hunger. Franck Ribéry was able to dominate his side and abuse his defenders from the restart. And all three times, he was able to get the ball in front to an unmarked Gomez. And Gomez finished all off both a normal hat-trick (three goals in a match) and a German hat-trick (three consecutive goals consecutively in one half) scoring in the 50th, 61st, and 67th minutes.
For good measure, substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger got some action after an injury layoff and assisted Robben for the final goal in the 81st minute.
“Overall it was a perfect game,” stated Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes. “We demonstrated that we were not going to waste time and were going to get into the quarterfinals.”
“It was very important that we qualified (for the next round) today,” said Ribéry. “We had fun today, the win is important for the club, the President, the fans. But now we have to forget this one and concentrate on Berlin (on Saturday).”
“You have to see this is a game to try to take something positive away from,” reflected Vogel after the match. “Maybe we can learn more from this than the wins we’ve enjoyed so far in the competition. Of course you have to talk about the quality Bayern have, but we need to learn our lessons.”
The lesson for Bayern is the realization that most of time they are the best team on the pitch. After fourteen goals in their past two matches, it looks like Bayern have awoken from their winter hibernation that had them only win three of their past seven Bundesliga matches and a 1-0 loss in the first leg at St. Jakob’s Park in Basel.
But then came Hoffenheim on Saturday to scrimmage against the Red Elite, or at least eleven guys suited up to let Bayern run all over them. And then came the Swiss cheese defense of Basel. Munich are finally playing up to their expected talent level, but their slip-ups keep them from the conversation of Europe’s best team.
Maybe they are on par with another FCB – FC Barcelona. The Catalans are considered the best club team in the world, since they won the Champions League and Super Cup titles last year and considered to repeat again. But, like Bayern, they are second in their own league. And both Bayern and Barcelona won their second leg matches scoring seven goals.
There’s hope that they are on a course to play in the Champions League final on May 19th at the Allianz Arena. It would be a shame if they are drawn for the quarterfinals or in the same bracket.
“There are many top teams (left in the draw) but when we play like this, it doesn’t matter who we play,” said a confident Ribéry. “We are ready for any opponent, we are Bayern Munich, we are not scared.”
Knocking Them Off – The following teams have survived the first knockout phase and will be drawn for the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals at noon CET on Friday from Nyon, Switzerland.
Teams qualified for the quarterfinals (as of March 13th)
AC Milan (ITA)
Bayern Munich (GER)
FC Chelsea (ENG)