Bayern Beaten But Can Still Enjoy a Successful Season
Berlin/Munich (dpa / MunichNOW News) - Bayern Munich were dismantled by Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final Tuesday but are still capable of bouncing back quickly to finish the season on a high.
After winning a historic treble last year, it would be easy to say this season is a failure for Bayern because they did not become the first club to retain the modern-day Champions League.
That would be unfair. There is a reason why no club has retained the Champions trophy since AC Milan in 1990 and that is because it is incredibly hard to do.
Not only do other major clubs with hundreds of millions of dollars to spend fight back against the champion, knock-out matches at this level are decided by the finest of margins.
Bayern deservedly lost the semi-final but just 60 seconds before Real opened the scoring in the Madrid first leg, the visitors were denied a goal by a frantic last-ditch block. A goal to one side and not the other at that point could have changed everything.
As it is, Bayern can still be proud of becoming Bundesliga champions in record time and they could yet add another German Cup to their collection when they face Borussia Dortmund in the Berlin final on May 17.
“You get games like these, but we need to hold our nerve,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
“We’ve been a little spoiled because we made the final twice in a row, and three times in the last four years.
“Despite the anger you feel welling up inside, I think on days like these you have to stay calm, go home and try to do things better as of tomorrow.”
Sport director Matthias Sammer freely admitted Real deserved to win but maintained Bayern still had ambitions this year.
“What we have to do now is pick ourselves up, give a decent performance in our two remaining Bundesliga matches, prepare for the cup and take the trophy,” he said.
“That would make a good season a very good one.”
Certainly if winning a domestic double is not enough to be described as a very good season, it is possible expectations for elite clubs such as Bayern have been increased beyond realistic proportions.
But the bigger concern for Bayern is not failing to win the Champions League this year, rather
whether coach Pep Guardiola’s playing style is suitable to do so in the future.
When Bayern destroyed Barcelona - a team playing to the possession philosophy of Guardiola, even if no longer coached by him - in the 2013 semi-final, it was a victory for quick, counter-attacking play over ball retention.
Keeping the ball is not a bad thing but Bayern exposed the danger of retaining possession simply for the sake of doing so. For Barcelona, possession had become the end itself, rather than the means to the end - winning the game.
A year later it is Bayern who dominated the possession and passing stats in the semi-final yet were brutally exposed by a Real side who utilized lighting-quick transition from defence to attack.
“The reason for the defeat is that we didn’t do enough with the ball,” Guardiola said. “We were outstanding in that respect in Manchester and also in Madrid, but not tonight.
“If you’re not in control of the match you don’t stand a chance against these opponents.”
Those comments, made in the pain of defeat immediately after the game, were an unsurprising defence of the approach which has brought several major trophies in a relatively short coaching career.
During the summer, Guardiola must take time to reflect how he can update his philosophy to match the challenge now posed by the likes of Real Madrid.
But first he must lift his squad for two more Bundesliga games and the German Cup final to ensure this season is remembered with fondness.