Saturday 24 March 2018

Atletico advance as Guardiola pays penalty for Muller miss

Bayern Munich 2 Atletico Madrid 1

Atletico Madrid's Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak makes a save (Getty Images)
Atletico Madrid's Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak makes a save (Getty Images)
Bayern Munich's defender Philipp Lahm (L) and Atletico Madrid's Argentinian midfielder Augusto Fernandez vie for the ball (Getty Images)
Bayern Munich's Brazilian midfielder Douglas Costa runs with the ball (Getty Images)
Bayern Munich's Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso (L) reacts after the match (Getty Images)

Jeremy Wilson

This match might have turned on a single moment - a missed penalty by Thomas Muller but the questions that now hang over Pep Guardiola stretch back four years.

Defeat here against Atletico Madrid means that Guardiola's teams have now lost at this same stage of the Champions League in each of his past four attempts to win a third title and he will now leave Bayern Munich for Manchester City with that one lingering asterisk on his CV.

Yes, you can argue that three Bundlesiga titles and an 80pc win ratio hardly represent failure during his time in Bavaria but, just as against Chelsea in 2012 and Real Madrid in 2014, it was a counter-attacking team that overcame his tiki-taka philosophy in Europe.


It was also another extraordinary triumph in the coaching career of Diego Simeone, who will now lead Atletico into a second Champions League final in three years.

Muller and Franck Ribery were reintegrated to a far more adventurous Bayern line-up from the one that lost 1-0 in Madrid last week, but with Atletico harrying them at every turn, Bayern initially struggled to establish their passing rhythm.

The speed and incision of Atletico's sudden attacks was also striking, and they mustered a couple of half-chances, but Bayern began to take control of possession, probing to find a way through this supremely well-drilled blur of blue shirts.

Bayern levelled the tie on aggregate when Augusto Fernandez conceded a free-kick 20 yards from goal with a clumsy challenge on David Alaba.

It was too close for Xabi Alonso to contemplate threatening the goal by going over Atletico's nine-man wall and he instead drilled his shot hard and low, with the ball cannoning off Jose Maria Gimenez's outstretched leg and past keeper Jan Oblak.

Atletico had conceded their first goal in 633 minutes of football, and they were soon almost 2-0 down.

Referee Cuneyt Cakir judged Gimenez to have unfairly wrestled Javi Martinez to the ground off the ball as they jostled for space inside Atletico's penalty area. Muller stepped up but his shot lacked sufficient power or placement to beat Oblak.

Alonso was still following up but Oblak recovered superbly to produce a second block.

Conscious that one goal for Atletico would leave Bayern needing three, Simeone also made a bold half-time tactical change, introducing Yannick Carrasco for Fernandez to provide width and join Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann in a switch from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation.

Bayern's pressure meant that it was often only Torres who was left in attack but Guardiola's team soon made the fatal mistake of overcommitting with their attacks. A sudden Torres pass split open Bayern's dangerously high line of defence to release Griezmann and, one-on-one with Manuel Neuer, the France striker brilliantly swept the ball into the bottom corner of the goal.

It was the closest of offside calls but the benefit of the doubt went to the attackers and, with Griezmann having taking his tally for the season to 31, the value of Atletico's clean sheet at home was now evident.


Just as when they faced Juventus in the quarter-finals, Bayern needed at least two second-half goals to avoid elimination. A low left-footed shot by Alonso prompted another save by Oblak but Bayern's neat passing patterns were resulting in few clear chances.

Guardiola then also made a brilliant tactical change. On came Kingsley Coman for Douglas Costa, and the new man soon produced a looping cross that Artur Vidal headed back across the six-yard box for Robert Lewandowski to convert.

Bayern had hope but their need to chase the game was again crucial, with Torres breaking clear and being upended by Vidal, only for Cuneyt wrongly to judge that contact had taken place inside the area. Some degree of justice followed with Neuer producing an almost identical penalty save to Oblak to deny Torres.

No matter. Atletico held firm in a frantic finale and now await either Real Madrid or Manchester City in Milan later this month. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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