The first leg of the semi-final between Bayern Munich and Barcelona was a pulsating affair won by the home team in a dominating fashion that has not only re-asserted their dominating play this season but also justified their favourites tag. Bayern Munich’s 4 goal extravaganza also makes their job in the return leg this week much more comfortable and for once forces Barcelona to play as undergrounds at the Nou Camp – a notion I never thought would be possible!
DOMINANCE IN THE AIR
Over the course of the first leg at the Allianz Arena I could not help but notice the glaring difference in the heights of the players of each team.
After compiling the data as shown below, I was amazed to notice that the starting line-up of Bayern had an average height of 1.83 meters or approximately 6 feet – a whole 5 inches taller than the average height of the Barcelona starting line-up – 5 feet 7 inches.
In fact, Bayern had only 4 players who were shorter than 1.83 meters while Barca had only 4 players who were taller than or were as tall as 1.83 meters! It was this feature that played a great role in the dominance Bayern exhibited in the aerial shots and there were few corners in the match which were convincingly controlled by Barca.
Lahm (who looked even tinier than usual during the anthem coverage!) and Ribery (who was more menacing than any Barca player) are the shortest players in the Bayern lineup at 1.70 meters but it hardly mattered on the pitch. Barca was truly handicapped and quite simply helpless whenever Bayern pressed forward. Quick in feet and nimble in the air, Bayern’s players outclassed their opponents in front of the goal and caged the magician Messi with ease.
Dantes was a perennial thorn for Barca during the corners in the first half and the first goal was a direct result of his uncontested leap over the Barca defence. Pique, the tallest among the Barcelona team, was a helpless spectator during the match. Busquets and Bartra, the other “tall” Barca players were practically invisible.
Bayern also out-muscled their opponents with ease and even though they were out-possessed (only 1/3rd of the possession) they were the better team with the ball. During the first 8 minutes of the match, Barca hogged the ball completely but it was harmless poking around in their own half and Bayern looked to pounce on them at every available chance!
Data gathered from www.fcbayern.telekom.de
|Team Bayern’s Players||Height (m)||Team Barcelona’s Players||Height|
|Franck Ribéry||1.70||Lionel Messi||1.69|
|Arjen Robben||1.80||Andrés Iniesta||1.70|
|Mario Gomez||1.89||David Villa||1.75|
|Manuel Neuer||1.93||Cesc Fàbregas||1.79|
|Thomas Müller||1.86||Gerard Piqué||1.92|
|Philipp Lahm||1.70||Carles Puyol||1.78|
|Toni Kroos||1.82||Víctor Valdés||1.83|
|Mario Mandžukić||1.87||Alexis Sánchez||1.69|
|David Alaba||1.80||Daniel Alves||1.73|
|Xherdan Shaqiri||1.69||Pedro Rodríguez||1.69|
|Javi Martínez||1.90||Éric Abidal||1.86|
|Claudio Pizarro||1.84||Sergio Busquets||1.89|
|Holger Badstuber||1.90||Javier Mascherano||1.74|
|Jérôme Boateng||1.92||Jordi Alba||1.70|
|Daniel Van Buyten||1.97||Marc Bartra||1.83|
|Luiz Gustavo||1.87||José Manuel Pinto||1.85|
|Anatoliy Tymoshchuk||1.81||Adriano Correia||1.72|
|Rafinha||1.71||Jonathan dos Santos||1.72|
|Diego Contento||1.77||Thiago Alcântara||1.72|
|Emre Can||1.84||Martín Montoya||1.74|
|Tom Starke||1.94||Marc Muniesa||1.79|
Data gathered from www.fcbayern.telekom.de
Table 1: Height comparison of players of Bayern Munich and Barcelona (names in bold indicate the starting line-up for the game played on 23-April-2013
I also loved the stubborn persistence of Javi Martinez and it was particularly delightful watching him squibble and squabble with Iniesta in the 34th minute and finally win the ball while out muscling Iniesta with ease! The way Bayern controlled the game was unexpected but more so was the ease with which Barca were outsmarted. Barca was thwarted at their own game. Rarely have they been beaten in this fashion. While Inter and Chelsea used stubborn defence and the odd goal to beat them over 2 legs, the hiding Bayern handed out to them last week was a master-class. It all but secured their berth at Wembley in the finals.
The return leg at the Nou Camp tomorrow should not be drastically different from the first leg. Bayern’s advantage in the air coupled with their speed would definitely be tough to dominate and overturning the 4 goal margin will be a near impossible task for Messi and his troops. I wouldn't be surprised seeing more goals from corners for Bayern and this time around they look primed to get the “chokers” tag off their backs and emerge triumphant in the finals. Messi or not, Barcelona have met their true match and have no choice but to accept the supremacy of their rivals!