- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - 10: 56 p.m.

Revenge is a dish best served in Barcelona. The last time Bayern Munich visited the Camp Nou, it won 3-0. On Wednesday, it lost at the same ground by the same scoreline. And that makes it very unlikely that the five-time European champions are going to reach the Champions League final in Berlin on June 6.

Spare a thought for Bayern defender Jerome Boateng, so bamboozled by a Lionel Messi run past him that he literally fell over. Messi then chipped over Manuel Neuer. 2-0.

Neymar got the third which leaves Bayern manager Pep Guardiola with a tactical conundrum that even he can’t solve. His team will have to push for goals next Tuesday in Munich. In doing so, it will make itself vulnerable again to the attacking trio of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

Bye-bye, Bayern.

Barring a miracle, the only real question now seems to be: who will Barcelona face in the final?

____

10:43 p.m.

The dam well and truly burst. Having held football’s most devastating attacking trio for 77 minutes, Bayern Munich crumbled.

Neymar, in a one-on-one against Manuel Neuer, makes no mistake and puts away goal No. 3 that will make it very, very difficult for Bayern to recover in the second leg in Munich next week.

Prior to that, Lionel Messi scored in the 77th and then the 80th minute. The whole complexion of this semifinal changed in just four minutes.

That means the trio of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez now have an astounding 111 goals between them this season. Sounds like a basketball score, not football.

____

10:41 p.m.

Messi’s goals were in the 77th and 80th minute. The whole complexion of this semifinal changed in just four minutes. But Barcelona will also be aware that the last Champions League opponent to travel to Munich with a two-goal lead, Porto in the quarterfinals, was then bloodied 6-1 in the second leg.

____

RESULT: Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0

____

GOAL! Barcelona 3 (Neymar) Bayern Munich 0

____

10:27 p.m.

Two moments of individual brilliance from, of course, Lionel Messi break the stalemate, with the score going from 0-0 to 2-0 in the blink of an eye.

Supporters are bowing to the Argentine striker and chanting “Messi, Messi” who caught out the hither-too faultless Manuel Neuer in quick succession, first with a powerful shot and then with a run that flat-footed the Bayern defense and a little dinking shot over the tall German goalkeeper.

That takes Messi’s career total of Champions League goals to 77, bettering the new record of 76 that Cristiano Ronaldo set only the night before against Juventus.

____

GOAL! Barcelona 2 (Messi) Bayern Munich 0

____

GOAL! Barcelona 1 (Messi) Bayern Munich 0

____

10:14 p.m.

Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski has recovered from his early missed goal opportunity to have a good game, testing the Barcelona defense with his off-the-ball play.

The Poland striker, distinctive in his black face mask protecting fractured facial bones, and Thomas Muller are playing wide on the flanks to give Bayern options to get out on the break.

Nerves are beginning to fray on the pitch and the stands. Neymar earned a yellow card that almost became a second for a bad tempered outburst.

Barcelona fans are getting restless.

____

10:10 p.m.

While Ivan Rakitic is hustling like no other Barcelona player to recover the ball, Andres Iniesta is starting to look winded. Coach Luis Enrique may need to look to Xavi Hernandez, 35, to replace the 30-year-old midfielder.

Gerard Pique picks up a yellow card for a desperate lunging foul on a Bayern attacker.

____

10:05 p.m.

The most consistent 10 minutes so far from Bayern Munich at the start of the second half. Pep Guardiola’s halftime pep talk, one suspects, has spurred on the five-time winners, but still not produced a goal.

Xabi Alonso fired his free kick into the Barcelona wall, with shrill whistles from the crowd for the former player for great rival Real Madrid.

Manuel Neuer saved a Lionel Messi shot and then the goalkeeper read the game superbly to rush off his line and clear after Neymar had been put through on goal. Great anticipation from the master “sweeper-keeper,” who is so quick of mind and reflexes.

____

9:44 p.m.

Thierry Henry, the former Arsenal great now a pundit for Sky Sports, says he was rendered speechless that Pep Guardiola threw caution to the wind, using just three Bayern Munich defenders against the best attacking trio in world football: Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

“Brave,” Henry said of Guardiola’s experiment, which he ended after 15 frantic minutes when Barcelona should have scored. Henry, who played under Guardiola at Barcelona, says it shows how offense-minded the coach is.

“He would die going forward and he actually tried to do it,” Henry said.

____

9:37 p.m.

The 0-0 score as the teams trudge off at half time doesn’t tell the story of what has been 45 minutes of sensational risk-taking, high-speed and cerebral football.

Astounding tactics for the first 15 minutes from Bayern, with coach Pep Guardiola leaving huge spaces at the back, with a quickly overwhelmed three-man defense, so the rest of his team could push higher up the field and put pressure in return on Barcelona.

Barcelona almost, and should, have made its former coach pay for his audacity/folly. But Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has been the man of the match so far. With an outstretched leg, he stopped Luis Suarez from scoring. He also blocked a shot from Daniel Alves, found with a delightful pass from Andres Iniesta. Neuer also made stopping a free-kick from Lionel Messi look like child’s play, catching it with supreme confidence.

Play like this is why the ‘keeper was a finalist for world player of the year, awarded instead to Cristiano Ronaldo.

____

9.30pm

Halftime: Barcelona 0 Bayern Munich 0

____

9:12 p.m.

For Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, playing against just three Bayern defenders was like Christmas and New Year rolled into one, a festival of gifts, with so much space for them to work in.

But the Barcelona attacking trio failed to exploit the opportunity. Neymar missed a good chance. With a wave of four fingers in the air, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola ended the experiment after 15 minutes, switching to a more cautious - and wiser - four-man defense.

At the other end, Robert Lewandowski should have put Thomas Muller’s cross into the back of Barcelona’s net, but scuffed the ball wide.

The Poland striker has an excuse: he’s playing injured, with a black mask protecting fractured facial bones.

Still, he’ll have to do better next time if Bayern is going to come away from this packed Camp Nou with at least one precious away goal.

____

9 p.m.

Big roll of the tactical dice from Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, fielding a three-man defense against the attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, and having his team push high up the field. There are spaces all over the field that both teams are looking to exploit.

Luis Suarez very nearly did, breaking free, toward Manuel Neuer’s goal and getting off a shot that the Bayern ‘keeper just managed to stop with an outstretched leg. Minutes later, Bayern’s defense is opened up again and Neymar misses.

A real football game of chess.

____

8:54 p.m.

An early test for Nicola Rizzoli, the Italian referee who also officiated at the 2014 World Cup final. He didn’t penalize Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng for a clumsy but not malicious shove on Luis Suarez that sent the Barcelona striker sprawling as he chased the ball into Manuel Neuer’s penalty box. Suarez went down easily and Neuer got to the ball first.

Suarez also drew a save from Neuer with a fairly harmless long range shot.

____

8:50 p.m.

Huge roars from the crowd as Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli blew to start the match. Bayern coach Pep Guardiola made a quiet entrance, going up the steps to the pitch while the teams were shaking hands before kick-off, clutching two bottles of water and slipping almost unnoticed into the away team’s dugout. No cheers or boos from Barcelona fans who adored Guardiola when he was the team’s trophy-winning coach.

____

8.45 p.m.

The Champions League semifinal first leg between Barcelona and Bayern Munich has started.

____

8:42 p.m.

The deafening Barca hymn “The whole stadium roars with one voice!” rings out as Camp Nou fills with a blue-and-burgundy (for club) and red-and-yellow (for Catalonia) mosaic of handheld cards reading “We Are Ready” and the dates of the Catalan club’s four European Cups: 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011.

____

8:26 p.m.

Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski is looking scary in a black protective mask for his broken nose and jaw. But it doesn’t seem to be bothering him in the warm-up.

___

8:20 p.m.

French great Thierry Henry has been reminiscing on Sky Sports about how Pep Guardiola was a hard taskmaster when he played under the coach at Barcelona. Guardiola wouldn’t allow players to train if they arrived late or stayed out past midnight the evening before, Henry said. “He demanded intensity.”

____

8:16 p.m.

This from Barcelona’s statisticians: Lionel Messi is playing his 100th game in European competition. He scored 76 goals in the first 99, winning three Champions League titles and two European Super Cups.

Defender Thomas Vermaelen, who has yet to play for Barcelona since an offseason move from Arsenal, is on the bench, after a long struggle with injuries. If Gerard Pique or Javier Mascherano get hurt, could the Belgian make his debut in one of the biggest games of the season?

____

8:10 p.m.

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique is taking no chances, sticking with the same starting XI that has proven unstoppable since early January, with 26 wins, one draw and one loss in all competitions.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar already have a combined 108 goals this season.

Andres Iniesta will be looked to for midfield magic, alongside defensive specialist Sergio Busquets and do-it-all Ivan Rakitic, whose hustle has bumped Xavi Hernandez onto the bench.

Dani Alves and Jordi Alba will run the flanks, with Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano anchoring the defense. The only doubt was at center back, but Mascherano was a sure bet after Jeremy Mathieu tweaked his right Achilles.

____

8:03 p.m.

Pep Guardiola has Robert Lewandowski up front, playing with facial fractures. He is expected to wear a protective mask. The Poland striker collided in the German Cup semifinal with Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Mitch Langerak.

Bastian Schweinsteiger didn’t come off the bench in Bayern’s 6-1 demolition of Porto in the quarterfinal second leg last month but slots into the midfield against Barcelona.

Bayern will look to him to disrupt the threat from Barcelona’s attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. Mario Gotze, who scored Germany’s winner in the 2014 World Cup final, drops to the bench.

____

8 p.m. Teams for tonight.

Barcelona: Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta, Neymar, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez.

Bayern Munich: Manuel Neuer, Mehdi Benatia, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Juan Bernat, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Xabi Alonso, Thiago Alcantara, Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski.

____

7:37 p.m.

The last meeting of these European giants, in the 2013 semifinals, left stud marks on the Barcelona psyche. Bayern hammered the visitors 4-0 in Munich and then piled insult on injury with a 3-0 victory at the Camp Nou.

Ouch. That was Barcelona’s only loss in its last 32 Champions League home matches.

Barcelona payback tonight?

____

7:31 p.m.

A team bus with police escort has just whisked Bayern Munich into the bowels of Camp Nou.

____

7:30 p.m.

You say “Camp Nou,” I say “Nou Camp.” So which is it? In sports journalism, the name of Barcelona’s stadium is a frequent source of confusion.

In fact, both are acceptable in Catalan, the local language. “Nou” means new and “camp” means ground.

But there’s a but. In a 2001 referendum, club members voted by a comfortable majority (68 percent) for “Camp Nou” as the official name for the stadium, Europe’s biggest, seating 99,354 people (being expanded to 105,000 by 2021).

So “Camp Nou” is the name our Associated Press writers use, except when they forget and use “Nou Camp.”

We’ll use “Camp Nou” tonight.

And how do we know all this?

Because Barcelona helpfully has a whole page on its web site dedicated to this naming conundrum.

It’s here: https://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/detail/article/the-mysteries-of-the-fc-barcelona-stadiums-name

____

7:20 p.m.

Very German-like, the first fans to start taking their places in the huge bowl that is the Camp Nou were Bayern supporters. They have already unfurled banners.

For their sake, here’s hoping they also brought sunblock, otherwise there will be tender foreheads. The sun is beating down on the majestic stadium with its famous motto, “More Than a Club,” emblazoned in Catalan across the stands.

____

7:15 p.m. (Spanish time)

Will the Barcelona crowd that once adored Pep Guardiola turn on him tonight? Can Lionel Messi hopscotch Cristiano Ronaldo as the Champions League top scorer?

So many questions. You’ll find the answers here over the next hours from the mouth-watering Champions League semifinal of Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich, playing the first of two legs for a place in the June 6 final in Berlin.

At Barcelona, Guardiola delivered trophies faster than pizza. A heap of them, including six Spanish league titles, as a player who came up through the club’s youth system. And 14 more in a golden spell as coach from 2008-2012. Then he crossed to the dark side. Bayern’s manager since June 2013 makes his first return to Barcelona’s Camp Nou tonight. Will Europe’s biggest stadium snarl or welcome him back?

Football’s greatest rivals - Messi and Ronaldo - were tied on a record 75 Champions League goals each until the Real Madrid forward scored his 76th against Juventus in the other semifinal first leg on Tuesday night. Juventus won 2-1, a narrow advantage to nurse in the second leg next Wednesday.

Anything Ronaldo can do, Messi can do better?

Kick off is 90 minutes away.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide