Germany’s perennial champions lack focal point and collective spirit and were very much second-best against Manchester City
Two hours and 53 minutes into this Champions League quarter-final, Bayern Munich finally scored. It was a Joshua Kimmich penalty, moot and meaningless, but still smashed into the very centre of the goal as if to make a point. Hey. Pssst. Lads. Maybe try aiming for the big netted thing. The one between the two metal things. It’s surprisingly roomy!
The finer details of this 4-1 aggregate defeat will be lost to the winds of history. Yet over the two legs of this tie, Bayern’s expected goal tally of 3.49 was just a fraction behind Manchester City’s at 4.23. Both sides got a dodgy penalty. Between the two boxes, as Pep Guardiola admitted afterwards, there was not a great deal to choose between them.
“Kings of the Cup!” read a giant banner unfurled in the Bayern end a few minutes before kick-off. The Südkurve shimmered with silver flags arranged in the shape of the Champions League trophy. The branding here was clear enough: this is our turf, our territory, our competition. Yet in reality it felt like a grand old club trying to cling on to its own idea of itself, desperately trying to animate with words and motifs a mythology they can no longer sustain on the pitch.
And so in retrospect, perhaps the emblematic moment of this game – if not the tie – came just 17 minutes in, when Leroy Sané was put clean through on goal by Jamal Musiala. It had been a dominant opening by Bayern, the Allianz crowd on its feet, Thomas Tuchel twitching and waving in his technical area. But Sané put his shot wide and that was essentially Bayern’s night in microcosm: guns spiked, blades blunted, one of Europe’s most dominant attacking teams reduced to pale smoke.
For those of us reared on some of the great Bayern sides of recent years – the punches in bunches, the serial demolitions of Barcelona – the spectacle of them not scoring can be a curiously disorienting …