October 26, 2016

Atletico add to Bayern’s semi-final heartache

Picture: AFP

Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich suffered a third straight Champions League semi-final exit to Spanish opposition on Tuesday as Atletico Madrid reached the final on away goals despite a 2-1 second-leg defeat.
Having won the first leg 1-0 in Spain, Atletico advanced thanks to Antoine Griezmann’s crucial away goal in Munich as the tie finished 2-2 on aggregate.

Xabi Alonso and Robert Lewandowski netted for Bayern on a night when both teams missed penalties.

But it was Atletico who secured a spot in the final in Milan on May 28, where they will face either Real Madrid or Manchester City.

“They were better, but we scored an away goal, which was important,” said Griezmann.

“We’re delighted. It was difficult, a really hard game, we had a great opponent in front of us.

“We had to both defend and try to score. That’s what we did.”

Bayern and Guardiola will rue Thomas Mueller’s saved first-half penalty just after Alonso had given the hosts the lead by crashing home a free-kick.

There was similar drama in the second half when Manuel Neuer saved Fernando Torres’ late penalty attempt for Atletico.

After Griezmann put Atletico level in the second half, Lewandowski gave Bayern brief hope when he headed home, but the Bundesliga leaders could not find the crucial third goal.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico, level on points with Barcelona at the top of La Liga with two games of the campaign left, face a busy few weeks as they prepare for their second Champions league final in three seasons.

Meanwhile, with their dreams of a treble over, Bayern are left to focus on winning a domestic double in Guardiola’s swansong.

“I have given my life for this team, I have fought and given my best,” said Guardiola.

“We haven’t reached a Champions League final, but I am proud of this team.

“We played the football we wanted to today and all that was missing was a goal. I am sorry for all the players.”

Bayern can become the first club to win four consecutive German league titles if they win at Ingolstadt on Saturday.

They also face Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final in Berlin on May 21.

However, their European exit will be a bitter pill to swallow for Bayern after they lost the 2014 semi-final to Real Madrid 5-0 on aggregate and exited at the same stage in 2015 with a 5-3 aggregate defeat to Barcelona.

Having been hammered in the German media for starting the first leg without Mueller, Guardiola included the Germany star and also brought in Jerome Boateng and Franck Ribery for the return.

Simeone made just one change from the first leg with centre-back Diego Godin returning in place of Stefan Savic after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Penalty misses
Atletico arrived in Munich having won their previous seven games and had not conceded a goal in their previous six.

However, the latter run was broken when Alonso drilled his free-kick into the net in the 31st minute to level the tie on aggregate.

His shot took a decisive deflection off Jose Maria Gimenez to wrong-foot Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak, and Bayern could have made it 2-0 on the night just three minutes later.

Gimenez was booked for conceding a penalty when he pulled down Javi Martinez in the area, but Oblak saved Mueller’s weak effort from 12 yards.

Simeone replaced Augusto Fernandez with Yannick Carrasco at the break and moved Griezmann out wide, and the tactical switch paid dividends as the visitors struck nine minutes into the second period from their first clear chance of the game.

Torres sent Griezmann clear in behind the Bayern defence and the France striker kept his cool before firing past Neuer.

Bayern were left needing to score twice and they got one back when David Alaba’s cross was headed back across the six-yard box by Arturo Vidal and Lewandowski nodded home his ninth Champions League goal of the season on 74 minutes.

Neuer came to Bayern’s rescue by saving Torres’ penalty attempt in the dying stages after the striker was brought down by Martinez, but it could not save Bayern from bowing out.

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