Bayern reached Wembley - as we always knew they would - with a defenestration of Barcelona
In pictures: all the best action from the Camp Nou
It's Borussia Dortumund versus Bayern Munich at Wembley later this month! The first all-German final awaits! Bayern leap around and celebrate, as well they might. Barca slip off quietly - as well they might, too, because this is the biggest semi-final thumping since Eintracht Frankfurt beat Rangers 12-4 on aggregate in 1960. Oh Barca! Still, it could be worse. They could be facing LIFE IN THE JUG like MBM reader and Japanese knotweed maniac Liam Blake. "In the UK," writes Felix Schnappauf, "it is an offence under section 14(2) of the Wildlife and Countryside act 1981 to 'plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild' any plant listed in Schedule nine, Part II to the Act, which includes Japanese knotweed." Oo-er! Oh Liam! Oh Barca!
90 min: There will be one added minute of this. One too many for Po' Barca. Just time for another missive from Niki Betkerur (54 min), who's here to make me feel guilty for comparing her to a Glasgow drunk from the 1970s. "Hahaha I enjoyed that video. Now that Bayern have scored, I can sit back, relax and educate myself about weeds. Oh and I'm a lady." Well I'm certainly no gent. Can you ever forgive me?
88 min: Bartra is replaced by Montoya. Robben sends Rafinha skittering down the inside-right channel. Rafinha slices a shot into the side netting from six yards. Barcelona are lucky this is just seven.
87 min: Barcelona are, on aggregate, trailing by seven goals. Seven goals!
85 min: Villa from 25 yards. Straight at Neuer. The Bayern keeper has been in no trouble whatsoever this evening.
81 min: Yes, they really have won one! It's swung in from the left. Bartra slaps a header just wide of the near post and high. "I just finished the entirety of the Chinese military shovel video," writes a rapt Daniel Stauss, "and I must say, hats off to the gentleman at 2:04 who did a spectacular job of julienning that potato with a shovel. I also am enraptured by the shield function (3:58), although I question the dedication of the guy with the stick. Sure, he's got his game face on while whacking away at the driver, but a little variety in his swing would be nice."
78 min: Some post-goal admin: Lahm is replaced by Rafinha, and Pique is booked for a frustrated lunge straight through Muller.
A burst of energy from Ribery down the left. He dinks the ball over the flapping Valdes and onto the head of Muller, who rises above a couple of blue-and-red shirts at the far post and cushions a header into the net. This is a proper pasting now, and there's still time to ramp up the pain. Has a German side given anyone such a smack in the mouth in the semis since Eintracht Frankfurt did for Rangers in 1960?
74 min: Javi Martinez is replaced by Tymoshchuk.
Exhibition segues into high farce. Luiz Gustavo sliderules a pass down the inside-left channel to release Ribery, whose low cross towards Muller is spectacularly hacked into the top-right corner by a hapless Pique. Oh dear.
71 min: Pedro, on the left-hand side of the Bayern D, takes a whack goalwards, but it's straight down Neuer's gullet. It came after a dribble at either end, one by Robben, the other by Villa. All a bit exhibition now.
70 min: Everyone's clockwatching now. You're missing nothing, I assure you. "Even more important than having clean socks is having thick socks," writes Ted Lee. "If you have to wear clean, thin socks for too long, the socks function as incubators guaranteeing an atmosphere hotter than a Champions League fixture at Ali Sami Yen. But with thick socks, the comfort level’s the equivalent of sitting with the prawn-eating brigade in the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand."
66 min: Schweinsteiger, one booking from missing the final, is replaced by Luiz Gustavo. Who is one booking from missing the final, but football is nothing if not a meritocracy. "The responses of fellow MBMers confirms my worst fears about the knotweed," writes our old pal Liam Blake. "On the question of who I am supporting, I can assure you I am strictly neutral....which is more than can be said for the ph of my soil once I've hit it with the herbicides!" Ladies and gentlemen, he's here all week, try the Baby Bio.
64 min: Iniesta is replaced by Thiago. The scoreline's one thing, but with no Messi, Xavi and now Iniesta on the field, suddenly this really feels like the death rattle of this particular Barca team. Thankfully, Messi is still only 25.
60 min: There's plenty of tiki taka on display, but it's all coming from Bayern, who triangluate beautifully down the right, their supporters indulging in some loud bundes¡olé!s. Each one must be a dagger in the heart of the home support. Eventually Muller cuts into the box, cocks his leg, and hammers a shot towards Robben's Corner of the net. A goal at the end of a signature Barca-style move - which must have been about 20 passes long - would have been the ultimate humiliation for the home side. But Bayern manage the next best thing, Muller's shot blootering straight into poor Bartra's phizog. The away support apart, Camp Nou is very quiet.
56 min: Xavi is replaced with Alexis Sanchez. "Here in Durham NC, we've had bumper crops of ravenous cankerworms denuding our willow oaks," reports Joseph Neff. "One neighbor wants to use a flamethrower, while kind hearted ones advocate picking the larvae one by one and relocating. Meanwhile, I've several hundred thousand inchworms on the property. Help!" Have you tried concreting over them? Heineken?
54 min: Bayern flood forward again, three versus two. Ribery wings the ball in from the left, Robben tries to sidefoot home spectacularly from 12 yards, and fails, and Mandzukic stands behind him wondering why he didn't bloody well leave it. A brief blast of hot heat, but soon everyone's smiling as they trot back up the pitch. After all, it doesn't really matter. "Will you please stop harping on about weeds?" demands Niki Betkerur of this free service. "Some of us are really invested in this match." Here's film of Niki ordering a drink in his local:
50 min: Barcelona respond, but not with much vigour. The shoulders are slumped. Everyone wants to go home, and who can blame them? Villa dances in from the right, but his shot never looks dangerous. On the bench, Messi looks thoroughly miserable.
This is such a gorgeous goal. Robben, replacing Mandzukic in the existential vagueness down the right, takes his time, saunters into the area, cuts inside Adriano, and curls a peach into the top-left corner. Valdes had no chance. Congratulations to Bayern Munich, who are in the Champions League final for the second year in a row, and the third time in four seasons. (Barcelona now need six, if anyone insists on carrying on with the dance.)
47 min: Bayern were so close to putting this to bed within 120 seconds of the restart. Muller storms into the Barca half with the home side very light at the back. He's got options either side, with Mandzukic - does anyone else get a Sinead O'Connor earworm? - in a particularly large zone of nothingness down the right. But he runs straight into Pique. Chance over.
Has Toto Villanova been taking advice from Phil 'I Don't Drink Pints Of Regret, I Drink Pints Of Guinness' Brown? He's sent Barcelona out onto the pitch early doors, is all. They hang around looking very sheepish for a couple of minutes, until Bayern deign to turn up. And then we're off! Barca get the ball rolling for the second half. They couldn't, could they? The answer to that is no, but let's see how this goes anyway.
There must be a function on this bad boy which would come in useful for clearing the back yard of the old knotweed.
[LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Shovel might not come in useful for clearing the back yard of the old knotweed. Those disappointed with their purchase should not come round to MBM Towers with a face on and shovel fixed in Grapple mode.]
Schweinsteiger looks in real pain as he hobbles off, the referee having almost immediately blown for half time after Alves' foul. Barcelona didn't do much; Bayern were superbly professional. Germany's new champions are technically 45 minutes from a Wembley final against the team they deposed, but they're as good as there already. I won't blame you if you go, but it'd be lovely if you stay and keep me company.
44 min: Dani Alves is booked for cleaning out Schweinsteiger, going right through the back of his standing leg. It's an undignified end to the half for Barca. Meanwhile Chris Sutcliffe has a scorched-earth policy when it comes to the old knotweed: "I had an infestation of Rosebay Willow Herb and successfully got rid of it by introducing pigs and a severe electric fence."
42 min: It's attack versus defence all of a sudden, with Barca pushing Bayern back into their own area. Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro and Villa are trying to get some of the old magic going, and it's nearly happening, but... well... something's missing. I won't insult your intelligence.
39 min: Barca are huffing and puffing, and getting absolutely nowhere. Daniel Alves tries to open Bayern up down the right, but the red shirts are soon all over him like, well, Japanese knotweed. A frustrated Adriano strides forward and has a slash at the ball from the best part of 30 yards, but it's weak and straight at Neuer. "Japanese knotweed is like modern football," suggests Robin Hazlehurst. "It may be bloated and ugly and unnecessarily ubiquitous but it ain't going anywhere, so learn to love it, embrace it and let it flourish and in a few years you'll stop minding and not even remember a time when it wasn't everywhere." This is what Michael Aston (27 min) was on about, wasn't it. He wasn't referring to athlete's foot at all. Still, remember: towel, talc, clean socks.
35 min: Another quick break upfield by Bayern, after a period of pointless lolling around by Barca, and Robben's so close to getting a shot away from the edge of the area. It's at the end of a great run down the inside right, which sees him beat three men, but he takes one touch too many and his effort is blocked. "I was channel surfing late one night a couple of years back and ended up watching an excellent BBC4 documentary (is there any other kind?) called The Secret Life of Weeds," begins Brad McMillan. "Liam Blake indeed faces a world of pain with his Japanese Knotweed. And he should probably warn the owners of neighbouring gardens. I never thought I'd be so scared of a documentary about weeds. At the risk of sound like a Redknapp, I literally count my blessings every spring when my garden is confirmed 'clean.'" I hope Liam is supporting Bayern tonight, because this isn't much of a feelgood MBM for him otherwise.
32 min: Robben is booked for a pointless lunge at a 70-30 ball. Song, the hot favourite, is clipped round the ankle, and looks in real pain, right up until the point the Bayern player gets a card waved in front of his grid.
30 min: Space for Xavi down the right. He sends a low ball into the middle, in the general direction of Fabregas, but the former Arsenal captain can't get ahead of Lahm, who is making a proper nuisance of himself. Signs in the last few minutes that Barca are getting a foothold in this game, though they'll surely need something before half time if their dreams aren't to feel totally futile.
27 min: What a miss by Xavi, who replicates Frank Lampard's act in the 2005 Chelsea-Liverpool semi by ballooning over from six yards out. That all came from a deep Daniel Alves cross from the right. A proper look of frustration spreads right across Xavi's coupon. "I had the same problem with morning glory, a pernicious, vicious bindweed," writes Michael Aston. "It took two years to destroy, I removed hedges and applied poisons liberally. Fact is, you have to attack the roots. A bit like footie." You mean footie as in football, the sport? Or are you referring to some kind of fungal infection? It sounds like a fungal infection. I don't know much about gardening, but barstool footcare advice I can dispense. Keep the feet dry at all times, apply plenty of talcum powder, wear cotton socks.
25 min: Mandzukic and Muller are both after a ball down the middle, causing Victor Valdes to descend into a blind panic, race out of his area, and hack clear. It's difficult to see Barcelona holding out all night. Six goals they'll need, then.
23 min: Barcleona's tiki-taka is more of a trudge so far. But then, after a period of sterile boredom, Pedro suddenly springs into life and fires a shot from distance towards the top-right corner. It's probably rising too high, just, but Neuer isn't taking any chances, and tips over. The resulting corner? Not so impressive.
19 min: This was nearly so special. Schweinsteiger's in the area, looking down on goal via the inside-right channel. Instead of shooting from an increasingly tight angle, he drags the ball back into the path of Lahm, trundling along behind him. Lahm's about to shoot, until the telescopic peg o'Pique extends to scupper his plans. Wonderful football all round, though the away supporters are damn sure that should have been a penalty.
17 min: It's an attractive enough spectacle, but apart from Victor Valdes picking up that backpass, neither keeper has had much to do so far. "In response to the Japanese Knotweed problem, my friend, who makes a living eradicating the wicked weed, suggests chopping it down and then injecting each and every remaining stalk with some kind of pesticide," says Justin Spencer. "Although I'm sure Heineken would suffice."
13 min: Barcelona are all over the shop at the back. First Schweinsteiger sends Robben clear from the halfway line with a glorious pass down the inside-right channel, but Robben is as Robben does, and a big-game chance goes begging as he faffs about. Then Muller and Mandzukic cause all manner of trouble down the left, eventually both breaking clear of a Barcelona back line which is beginning to look like that wall built by Yosser Hughes in Boys from the Blackstuff. But they mess up their passes. In between, to be fair, Barca win a corner down the right, but nothing comes from it. Bayern look much the more likely at the moment.
9 min: Schweinsteiger swings a ball in from the left to Muller, who level with the far post, 12 yards out, rises high but can't get his effort on target. "The best way to get rid of Japanese knotweed is to move house (or get a specialist company in)," suggests Nick Smith. So there you have it.
8 min: Barcelona press forward awhile, Alves and Villa taking turns to cause a small amount of bother down the right, but Bayern are quickly breaking upfield, Lahm gambolling down the right. The move peters out, but it does illustrate the knife-edge Barca are walking along. One away goal, and
I'll be switching over to MBM tonight's Masterchef, or whatever's on BBC Parliament this semi will be over, if it isn't already.
5 min: Muller is this close to releasing Mandzukic into the area with a clever flick on the arc of the Barca D, but Daniel Alves is across quickly to pass back to his keeper. Victor Valdes collects the ball, and really should concede an indirect free kick at close range for doing so, but the referee is already so jaded with this match that he can't be bothered to whistle. Barca have got away with that.
4 min: You have to feel sorry for the denizens of Camp Nou, who are trying their level best to whip up an atmosphere with the odd burst of song. But as one would imagine, it's the travelling support who are making most of the noise. What there is of noise, anyway. "I grew up thinking the true lyrics to Que Sera Sera were, Tell me ma, me ma, I won't be home for tea - we're off to Wem-ber-lee," writes John Davis. "Obviously more appropriate for the Carlisle fan I grew up as than, say, an Arsenal follower. I wonder if either set of German fans will adopt the song, as they have Three Lions?"
2 min: Barcelona have been enjoying the lion's share of possession, but it's all in their own half. Still, it's all good for the stats and data, and that's the main thing about football these days, so I'm constantly being told.
And we're off! Bayern get the ball rolling. They're 90 minutes away from Wembley. Let's hope for a surprise classic, but let's also manage our own expectations, and remember that we might have to make our own entertainment. To this end, Liam Blake writes: "I've just discovered Japanese knotweed in my garden! Any tips for eradicating this unwanted perennial?" Pour a few bottles of official Champions League bleach Heineken over it?
Having warmed up, presumably properly, the players are now lined up listening to The Betrayal Of Handel, the official Champions League anthem. Barcelona are sporting their usual Basel pastiche, Bayern dressed in all red this year. We'll be off in a minute.
They're doing high fives now. There goes that Moulin Rouge aesthetic. You never caught Charles Aznavour or Charles Trenet acting the giddy goat like this.
I'd like to say that the atmosphere's heating up already in Camp Nou. But it's not. Everyone knows. Still, you can criticise Barca's performance in this semi-final up to this point all you like, and with some justification, but you can never accuse them of not at least trying to put on a show. Even in the warm-up, the mere presence of Barcelona's stars imbues the occasion with a grand sense of theatre. Specifically the revues associated with the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Yes sir and madam, they're doing the can-can. They're standing around in a large circle, wheeching their boots up around their lugs. Very impressive, but is this a normal way for footballers to warm up these days? Aren't they risking serious injury with the old muscles still cold and tight? And what would Andres Iniesta look like in a large pair of frilly knickers? Whatever, this Early Days of Moulin Rouge theme is really working for me, given the manner in which they stank out the first leg was reminiscent of none other than Le Pétomane.
Barcelona leave the half-jiggered Leo Messi on the bench, while Alex Song makes a rare appearance. Wait! Come back! Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Bartra, Adriano, Xavi, Song, Iniesta, Villa, Fabregas, Pedro. Subs: Pinto, Sanchez, Messi, Thiago, Jonathan, Montoya, Tello.
Bayern Munich could probably afford to field a few traffic cones, a wardrobe, a chair or two, and a TV cabinet, but they've gone the whole hog, despite Javi Martinez, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger all being one booking away from missing the final: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Van Buyten, Alaba, Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Robben, Muller, Ribery, Mandzukic. Subs: Starke, Dante, Shaqiri, Rafinha, Gustavo, Gomez, Tymoschuk.
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)
Four-goal deficits in the European Cup, then. Bad news for Barcelona: they simply never get overturned. The best second-leg recovery ever managed in Uefa's premier tournament came in the 2003-04 quarter finals, when Deportivo la Coruna humiliated defending champions Milan 4-0 at the Riazor after losing the first leg at San Siro 4-1. That was pretty darn special, but only, you'll notice, a three-goal salvage job. Not special enough!
There's little precedent for this sort of carry-on in the other European competitions, either. Only three clubs have ever managed to pull off a four-goal turnaround: Leixoes of Portugal beat La Chaux-de-Fonds of Switzerland 5-0 to overturn a 6-2 away loss in the 1961/62 Cup Winners Cup; Partizan of Belgrade shamed our very own Rangers of Queens Park 4-0 after a similar 6-2 away defeat in the 1984/85 Uefa Cup; and Real Madrid beat Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0 after suffering a 5-1 skelping in Germany in the 1985/86 Uefa Cup. That's three ties since European football began back in 1955. Three. In nearly 60 years.
In summary: Oh Barca!
But! There is!! HOPE FOR BARCELONA!!! A sort of desperate, pathetic, abject hope, and only a miserable sliver of it to boot. But hope nonetheless. Here's why!
1) Barcelona are playing Bayern Munich. If there's any club in Europe who can fashion a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the European Cup, it's this shower of bundesgaloot. How about the 1982 European Cup final, which they lost to a mid-table outfit forced to play 81 minutes with a goalkeeper who had made only two previous appearances for the club? Or the 1987 final, when they came within 13 minutes of the trophy before being walloped by a quick one-two? Or the 1999 final, when, yes, you remember. Lothar Matthaus certainly remembers. Or the 2012 final, when Arjen Robben's knees rattled together so violently that for a while it was thought Lionel 'Hot Mallets' Hampton had risen from the dead to bang out one last particularly coruscating vibraphone solo. They have demons. Demons which are likely to make themselves known should Barca grab an early goal or two.
2) Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes has demons which are likely to etc., and so forth, and so on. Not only does he still wake up three times every night in a cold sweat screaming ARJEN YOU PREPOSTEROUS WEE EEJIT with his pyjamas soaked through, he was also the boss of Gladbach in 1985/86 when Real managed that aforementioned four-goal comeback in the Uefa Cup. Oh Jupp!
3) Barcelona won 4-0 the last time these two teams met at Camp Nou, in 2009. Yes, they did do that.
4) Barcelona's last game at Camp Nou against German opposition was a 7-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in last year's round of 16. And the previous one, against Stuttgart at the same stage in 2010, was an equally useful 4-0 win! 7-1, though.
5) Barcelona have reached the last two Wembley finals. Not sure this really means much, in fairness. But then neither do the first four points, if we're all being honest with ourselves. I'm just desperately trying to hold your attention here.
Truth be told, it's surely beyond Barca to stun this excellent Bayern Munich side. Chances are, come half nine this evening, it'll be the German fans who could be singing along to that old terrace classic Que Sera Sera. Altogether now:
Will it be chips or jacket spuds? Will it be salad or frozen peas? Will it be mushrooms? Fried onion rings? You'll have to wait and see. Hope it's chips, it's chips, we hope it's chips, it's chips
Que sera sera
Whatever will be, will be
We're going to Wem-ber-lee
Que sera sera.
You'd think that was an advert for chipped potatoes, wouldn't you? Nope! Birds Eye Steakhouse Grills. Kick-off's at 7.45pm BST, 8.45pm local time, by the way. See you then.