THEY had the celebratory T-shirts ready, and put them on before they left the pitch. Bayern Munich cruised into the Champions League final last night humbling the side built by the man who will be their manager next season.
From his public speaking tour of South America Pep Guardiola had promised "anything could happen" as his former side met the team he will take charge of next season. But for large swathes of last night's mismatch at the Camp Nou nothing happened. And when it did, it happened to Barça – a sad shadow of the team who had won two of the last four finals.
Bayern will meet Dortmund in an all-German final at Wembley on May 25 in a game sure to make up for this insipid double header. Barça were without Leo Messi but still started with seven Spain internationals and yet – needing to score at least four – found the net only once when Gerard Pique put through his own net in a second-half collapse.
The Nou Camp mosaic spelled out the word pride and that was surely all Barça were playing for. Messi's troublesome hamstring had meant he started on the bench. It was already a David and Goliath task for Barcelona, and now with David not even in the starting line-up the Germans' passage was surely assured.
Barcelona needed to win 4-0 in 90 minutes to send the game into extra time.
The Catalan club had managed that scoreline in 2009 in a quarter-final first leg but those were different times. Jurgen Klinsmann was Bayern's coach and Barcelona had Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o and Yaya Toure in their team, as well as a fit Carles Puyol in defence.
Guardiola shrunk his side with his signings across four seasons. For as long as the team remained quick it never seemed to matter but against the Bundesliga champions in the first leg Tito Vilanova's side seemed to possess neither the power nor the pace to match their opponents.
On 14 minutes there was the first glimpse of what Barcelona might manage without Messi. Xavi played the ball behind David Alaba for Dani Alves to run on to but his cross went behind David Villa inside the penalty area. Villa was bouncing off Jerome Boateng in the early stages and the defender's distribution from the back every time he won the ball was perfect.
It was a measure of this blip in Barcelona's reign that they were not pinning Bayern back inside their own penalty area. A wild Alves cross that went behind for a goal kick summed up the reduced threat.
Pedro took the initiative on 23 minutes with a shot that was tipped over by Manuel Neuer but with every Barcelona attack came a Bayern counter, Mario Mandzukic charging through and Victor Valdes having to clear Gerard Pique's driven back pass. Alves then crossed again from the right but Villa and Pedro jumped into each other, failing to penalise Philipp Lahm, who seemed to have got the wrong side of both of them.
A triangle move from Alves, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas ended with the former Arsenal man shooting straight at Neuer but Barcelona were leaving three at the back when attacking and Arjen Robben raced down the flank vacated by Adriano only for Alex Song – playing in the absence of the injured Sergi Busquets and sitting between Pique and 19-year-old Marc Bartra – to make the clearance.
Just before the break Bastian Schweinsteiger – one of only two Bayern survivors from that 4-0 reverse in 2009 – was chopped down by Alves, who was booked. With the pair still on the floor – the German receiving treatment and Alves trying to avoid the caution – time was called on the first half, it seemed, almost without a flat Camp Nou noticing.
Four minutes into the second half things got worse for every self respecting Barça supporter as a former Real Madrid player scored. When Robben was at Madrid some of the club's more one-eyed supporters, desperate for the team to have its own Messi, suggested the Dutchman might be as good as Barcelona's No 10.
The debate lasted about a day but last night with Barça's No 10 on the bench, Robben did as Leo has done so many times before – cut in from the right and found the far corner with a left-foot shot.
The away goal was not necessary but it at least meant no-one had to bother Messi to get stripped to come on. The game was gone. Why risk the right hamstring further. The Bayern fans were now greeting every one of their passes with an Ole. And sending cries of 'Finale' down from the Nou Camp gods.
The exit could be no more humbling. Or at least they thought so until 72 minutes when Franck Ribery crossed and Pique hammered the ball past his own keeper for the second and Thomas Müller headed in Ribery's cross to make it 7-0 on aggregate. Football's coming home, sang the Germans. Football has, temporarily at least, deserted Barcelona. (© Independent News Service)