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Barcelona 2-Eight Bayern Munich: Quique Setien’s males undergo their heaviest EVER defeat in Europe

There are some results that are about more than just numbers. They become statements, revelations, full stops. They bring about change, they mark the end of an era. Germany 7 Brazil 1. Bayern Munich 8 Barcelona 2.

As the goals kept coming, so historians searched ever more frantically for precedent. Five: Barcelona’s worst defeat in Europe since 1976. Seven: their heaviest defeat since Sevilla in 1946. Eight: their heaviest defeat since Sevilla in 1940. Yet even that does not do it justice. There were no super clubs in 1940. No competition like the Champions League, either. 

A club of Barcelona’s size does not lose by eight to anybody and certainly not in this of all moments. There will be a new coach by next season, maybe a new strategy, too. The presence of Lionel Messi has masked a flawed philosophy for too long. The result at Anfield last year should have set alarms ringing. Indeed, the cacophony that will have enveloped Barcelona by the end of this tie must have been deafening.

Bayern Munich cruised through to the semi-finals of the Champions League after humiliating Barcelona in Lisbon

Bayern Munich cruised through to the semi-finals of the Champions League after humiliating Barcelona in Lisbon

It was Barcelona's biggest ever defeat in Europe as Lionel Messi's wait for a first Champions League title since 2015 goes on

It was Barcelona’s biggest ever defeat in Europe as Lionel Messi’s wait for a first Champions League title since 2015 goes on

Gerard Pique and Barcelona's defence was tormented throughout the game and he admitted the club needs major change

Gerard Pique and Barcelona’s defence was tormented throughout the game and he admitted the club needs major change

MATCH FACTS 

Barcelona (4-4-2): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Roberto (Griezmann 45′), Busquets (Fati 70′), de Jong, Vidal; Messi, Suarez

Subs not used: Rakitic, Dembele, Neto, Firpo, Pena, Puig, Araujo, Monchu, Mingueza, Reis

Booked: Suarez, Alba, Vidal

Goals: Alaba og 7′, Suarez 54′

Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Kimmich, Boateng (Sule 76′), Alaba, Davies (Lucas Hernandez 84′); Thiago, Goretzka (Tolisso 84′); Gnabry (Coutinho 75′), Muller, Perisic (Coman 67′); Lewandowski

Subs not used: Odriozola, Javi Martinez, Cuisance, Ulreich, Zirkzee, Hoffmann, Musiala

Booked: Davies, Boateng, Kimmich

Goals: Muller 4′, 31′, Perisic 21′, Gnabry 27′, Kimmich 63′, Lewandowski 82′, Coutinho 85′, 89′

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

And Bayern Munich were magnificent, yes. Unconvincing defensively, mind, but devastating in the way they set about dismantling their opponents. On occasions when Barcelona have lost in Europe, it has been painted as a victory for cynicism: Inter Milan in 2010, Chelsea in 2012. 

There was nothing cynical about Munich’s approach. They were simply better: smarter, more clinical in front of goal, attuned to how Barcelona wanted to play and how to negate it, exposing weaknesses and taking full, powerful advantage. They were swift on the counter-attack, ferociously intelligent in their movement, braver, bolder, prouder, harder-working, more determined, every inch the team to beat in the competition this season. 

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Some had bemoaned that this match was a quarter-final and not the tournament’s climax, but that greatly overplayed Barcelona’s hand. They were second best to Real Madrid domestically, and Madrid’s exit to Manchester City draws a form line. Munich are the best team in this competition to far, and their best opponent is still to come. Barcelona, short term at least, are history.

So while Munich impressed, the most dangerous presence on the field was not, as expected, their striker and Europe’s best footballer of 2019-20, Robert Lewandowski. It was Barcelona’s defence. Collectively and individually, they were a menace – not least goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who appeared to be on a mission to present his colleagues with a series of dares, by passing to them in wildly precarious positions.

Have we reached peak playing out from the back? Nobody wishes to see a return to the days when goalkeepers hoofed the ball aimlessly upfield, and every passage of play started with an aerial 50-50. Yet there is a middle ground between that, and what we saw from Barcelona last night: ter Stegen in his six-yard box, flanked by defenders, and taking the type of tap-touch familiar from short corners. 

What is the point – especially when, as Bayern Munich pressed ferociously – the end result was often a hasty pass back to ter Stegen who would then boot it to a cluster of Munich players waiting in the heart of midfield for exactly that development. It was like watching a boys’ team marshalled by an idealistic coach, crushed by more worldly wise opponents.

The opening goal came after just four minutes, started by Ivan Perisic on the left. He played an excellent ball in for Thomas Muller, whose one-two with Lewandowski left Barcelona’s back line bamboozled. Muller made his finish look easy – in reality the ball was dropping slightly behind him, requiring a late adjustment to shoot past ter Stegen. He was on his way to a man of the match performance.

Thomas Muller opened the scoring for Bayern after firing home following an one-two with striker Robert Lewandowski

Thomas Muller opened the scoring for Bayern after firing home following an one-two with striker Robert Lewandowski

Barcelona equalised in a crazy opening ten minutes when Bayern defender David Alaba put Jordi Alba's cross into his own net

Barcelona equalised in a crazy opening ten minutes when Bayern defender David Alaba put Jordi Alba’s cross into his own net

But Perisic then hammered Bayern in front again after Serge Gnabry fed the Croatian after dispossessing Sergi Roberto

But Perisic then hammered Bayern in front again after Serge Gnabry fed the Croatian after dispossessing Sergi Roberto

It was a blow for Barcelona but there was little sign of the calamity to come. Indeed, initially, they looked to have got away with it. Just three minutes later, Jordi Alba sped down the left flank and, always a good idea, aimed for Luis Suarez. It fell to David Alaba to deal with the danger and he did not rise to the occasion. Alaba sliced at the ball and succeeded only in sending it spinning past Manuel Neuer and into the net.

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Ironically, Munich continued to look vulnerable defensively. A Messi free-kick somehow eluded Sergio Busquets and a cluster of unmarked Barcelona players, before striking the far post with Neuer nowhere. Had that gone in, who knows? Instead, in a ten minute first-half spell, Munich responded by taking Barcelona apart.

There were three goals scored between the 21st and 31st minutes, plus at least one other chance. At times, it was like watching a rerun of the World Cup semi-final in 2014, when Germany put seven past Brazil. The hosts’ faith in their system was exposed that day, and it was much the same here. Barcelona tried to play the Barcelona way, Munich regarded it with disdain and by the end, both sets of players seemed in agreement. Nobody can say Barcelona went down fighting, or even defending their honour.

Gnabry then himself turned scorer after intricate and clever passes from both Thiago Alcantara and Leon Goretzka

Gnabry then himself turned scorer after intricate and clever passes from both Thiago Alcantara and Leon Goretzka

Muller netted his second shortly after the half-hour mark from Joshua Kimmich's cross as Bayern began to run riot

Muller netted his second shortly after the half-hour mark from Joshua Kimmich’s cross as Bayern began to run riot

Lionel Messi cut a frustrated figure as Barcelona went into the break, having conceded four in Europe for the first time ever

Lionel Messi cut a frustrated figure as Barcelona went into the break, having conceded four in Europe for the first time ever

The rout proper began with a 21st minute counter-attack that saw Serge Gnabry play a lovely pass inside for Perisic, as ever on a breathtaking overlap. His low shot may have caught the slightest deflection but it defeated ter Stegen at the near post. From there, every second ball was recycled in Munich’s favour. In the 27th minute, Thiago swept midfield again and found the excellent Leon Goretzka who played the pass of the night into Gnabry, arriving late to finish with a low shot.

Ter Stegen did his best to make it four by delivering the ball directly to Lewandowski after 29 minutes, but he missed and instead Munich had to wait for their next attack which saw Joshua Kimmich fly down the right, crossing for Muller at the near post for his 199th Munich goal. It was the first time Barcelona had conceded four goals in the first-half in the Champions League era. And from there each goal brought a freshly humiliating milestone.

Suarez got one back for Barcelona after 57 minutes, pouncing on a cross from Alba and making a fool of Jerome Boateng in the process, but it was scant consolation. By the time the fifth came along, Munich were playing with them.

But Bayern Munich soon restored their three-goal advantage with Kimmich tapping in after a mazy run from Alphonso Davies

But Bayern Munich soon restored their three-goal advantage with Kimmich tapping in after a mazy run from Alphonso Davies

Alba showed the frustration of the Barcelona players and rather boisterously ignored the referee as he was booked for a foul

Alba showed the frustration of the Barcelona players and rather boisterously ignored the referee as he was booked for a foul

Lewandowski then got his 54th goal of an incredible season after heading home from Coutinho's cross for Bayern's sixth

Lewandowski then got his 54th goal of an incredible season after heading home from Coutinho’s cross for Bayern’s sixth

Literally, at times. Alphonso Davies toyed with Nelson Semedo on the left, waved a boot over the ball, shaped to move, dared him to commit. Then he did it again. Semedo stood, transfixed. He didn’t want to dive in, he didn’t want to be the sucker. And then, like that, Davies was gone. 

Semedo chased, struggled to keep up, fell over, Davies cut the ball back to Joshua Kimmich arriving as if attending a five-alarm fire; or what was about to become a five-goal routing. He sent the ball back the way it came, but towards goal. This was now Barcelona’s worst European defeat since losing to Levski Sofia in the UEFA Cup in 1976. And then it got worse.

Lewandowski had not featured on the scoresheet to here, but made amends with the sixth. Philippe Coutinho – on loan from Barcelona and on as a substitute – crossed, Lewandowski steered his header in at the far post. Coutinho then added the seventh, stretching to shoot in the penalty area, and the eighth as Barcelona’s defence gave up the ghost. 

By the end Barcelona looked haunted. So they should. Munich had 26 attempts at goal, and eight different players credited with assists. That was the sort of statistic that used to be associated with another famous football club. Remember them? The artists formerly known as Barcelona.

Barcelona loanee Philippe Coutinho came off the bench for Bayern and scored ten minutes after being brought on

Barcelona loanee Philippe Coutinho came off the bench for Bayern and scored ten minutes after being brought on

Coutinho notched his second goal four minutes later when he slid in to finish as Barcelona conceded eight goals

Coutinho notched his second goal four minutes later when he slid in to finish as Barcelona conceded eight goals

Munich therefore breezed through to the last four of the competition where they will face either Manchester City or Lyon

Munich therefore breezed through to the last four of the competition where they will face either Manchester City or Lyon

The defeat spelled more trouble for Barcelona boss Quique Setien whose side had already conceded LaLiga to Real Madrid

The defeat spelled more trouble for Barcelona boss Quique Setien whose side had already conceded LaLiga to Real Madrid

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