Man City 1 – Bayern Munich 3 – Football from another planet
Less than an hour gone at the Etihad Stadium, and the visiting Bayern Munich supporters are serenading their hosts with the English football anthem. A few short weeks after City embarrassed the champions of England, the gap between the Premier League and the Bundesliga is highlighted once more. City have not even played particularly badly (aside from Joe Hart), but Die Bayern have utterly outclassed them.
It wasn’t meant to be this way for City. An impressive performance in the Czech Republic saw the blues coast to a 3 – 0 victory over Viktoria Plzen, with this game seen as a chance to prove that they had moved on from last years humbling experience. There was a terrific atmosphere around the Etihad, with club anthem Blue Moon ringing around the stadium combining with a tifo card display to create an impressive spectacle. The city fans deserve credit for organising this card display themselves, with many British clubs relying on corporate or club sponsorship for such displays.
However, this was to be as successful as things were to get for City, as Bayern put on the most impressive footballing display I have ever seen. Last year I saw City take on Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad, with BVB playing to a standard which was on a completely different level to the blues. Bayern were not only on another level, but another planet, as City were torn apart time and time again.
It took just seven minutes for the visitors to take the lead, the midfield dominance paying off as Franck Ribery was given the space to unleash a shot from long distance. It was a tame effort, with many people inside the stadium, myself included, looking away as they assumed that the England number one would collect the ball with ease. Instead, he could only push it into the roof of the net, sending the traveling support wild.
Lead by two ultras at the front of the stand, backs turned to the action, it was an impressive display from the Bayern fans, with their away support a hundred times better than that on display at the Allianz Arena, Rival German supporters often mock Munich for handing out ‘clappers’, with disputes between the club and the ultras often creating a dour atmosphere. There was no danger of that happening on this cold Wednesday night, as the Bayern faithful turned Manchester red in a way that the faltering David Moyes can only dream of.
The combination of Muller, Kroos, Ribery, Schweinsteiger and Robben was simply irresistible, as they dominated an extremely good Manchester City midfield. I count Yaya Toure as one of the best players I have ever had the fortune to see play, and not even he was able to make the slightest dent on the dominance enjoyed by the visitors.
The ball was moved around with almost telepathic speed, with the kind of football domination only usually witnessed when playing FIFA against your mum. Every Bayern player knew exactly what their teammate was going to do a couple of seconds before they did it, and the only surprise at half time was that they were not winning by more than the single goal.
In addition to the masterclass on the pitch, there was also an extremely strong showing in the stands. Manchester City are still able to create a good atmosphere despite the creeping commercialism of the club. The South Stand and the corner of the stadium next to the away fans were the only areas of the ground able to create a noise, but create a noise they certainly did. Meanwhile, the ultras were continuing to conduct proceedings in the away end, declining the invitation of the Manchester City fans to place their drum in an awkward and uncomfortable area.
The second half begun, and ten minutes later, the contest ended. A wonderful passing move ended with Dante supplying Thomas Muller with a one on one opportunity, and he was never likely to miss. The City defence stood around aimlessly waiting for an offside flag that never came, with the Bayern fans almost spilling on to the pitch as they celebrated. There was no need for a pitch invasion, as the European champions already appeared to have more men on the field than their hosts, such was the command they had of the game.
Amazingly, things would get worse still for the boys in blue, as Robben deservedly added his name to the scoresheet just three minutes later. It was another calamity for City and Hart in particular, with the England stopper lying on the floor in despair and the ball was rolled casually into the open net. If there had been any doubt, it was gone now, and the victory party began in the away end. In addition to singing ‘Football’s coming home’, there was even time for a mass Poznan.
It was almost 4 – 0 minutes later, with the ball thumping off the bar with Hart beaten once more. Bayern could have scored six or seven and few people within the Etihad could have complained. One person who definitely would have complained is the man stood behind me, who was without doubt the most negative man in the world. Every time Bayern got the ball within the City half he would mutter “They’re gonna score here”, repeating this phrase every thirty seconds or so throughout the course of the match. If the visitors really had scored every time he turned away in disgust, the final score would have been roughly 300 – 0. I guess that’s what a lifetime of supporting ‘Typical City’ does to you.
City would have the final word in the match, thanks to the superb Alvaro Negredo. On this display, playing Edin Dzeko over Negredo is like living with a Michelin star chef and going out for a kebab for tea every night instead. Negredo improved City hugely after coming on, scoring a superb goal and inspiring a mini-comeback for his side. This increased pressure from City saw Jerome Boateng receive a red card, with the home fans serenading him off the pitch with chants of “City reject.”
He was the only Bayern player to leave the pitch to a chorus of boos, with both Schweinsteiger and Robben applauded off the pitch for their efforts. It was the least they deserved. Ironically, the more City fans that left the stadium, the better the atmosphere got. Those who remained were clearly those who had seen a lot of hard times at the club, and can appreciate the journey they have taken to reach this stage. The ground was a quarter empty by this point, but scarves were lofted into the air and a spine-tingling rendition of Blue Moon rebounded defiantly around the ground. It was so good that even the Bayern fans applauded, and they must be hard to impress with the incredible level of quality they witness every week.
Despite the fact that it would have been a bigger miscarriage of justice than the O.J Simpson verdict, City could even have claimed a point in the final stages. With Boateng off the field, the blues twice struck the bar, while David Silva forced a superb save from Neuer. Despite this late resurgence, Bayern got the win they deserved, completing a majestic performance which must rank as one of the finest in the recent history of European competition. There was one spell where they kept that ball for what seemed like a hundred passes, with the Bayern fans cheering every touch.
If they perform like this consistently, the question should not be whether Bayern Munich can become the first side to retain the Champions League in this format, but can anybody stop them in the next five years? On this evidence, there will be many more victory beers drunk in the beer halls of Munich for the foreseeable future.
As for Manchester City, they are stuck in an odd position. On the pitch they are undeniably ‘modern football’, but in the stands they retain a great deal of the humour and passion which made them so popular with neutrals before the money came along. If Manchester City do eventually enjoy success in Europe over the coming years, I can only hope that it does not come at the cost of the clubs soul. There is already one stadium in Manchester infested with jester hats and people filming on iPads, if ticket prices continue to rise at the Etihad, it surely won’t be long until there is a second.