Bayern Munich were in the Lombardy region this evening, where they met last year’s Champions League winners Inter Milan at the San Siro. By chance you ask? Well certainly not. This was the first 90 minutes of their knockout round tie, and the Bavarians certainly weren’t playing for a draw.
Inter were without Milito—the man who scored the winner in last year’s final—though he’s only just back in form after taking the first half of the season off for various knocks to body and mind. The Italians came out in a 4-3-2-1 (the Christmas tree, if you like) to face the German’s 4-2-3-1, Eto’o up top for Inter and Gomez the man at the point for Bayern.
It all started off cagedly as you’d expect from this phase of the cup, especially when there’s an Italian side in the mix. There was an early chance off a set piece sent in by Sneijder that then went sailing into the stands off the foot of the center back Ranocchai (the man had a generally awful game, sending dangerous loose passes about the back before being subbed with ten minutes remaining). And another opportunity in the 22nd minute when the lively Eto’o worked up the right wing and placed an opportunity on the foot of Cambiasso, but his blast was stifled by newly-chosen first choice keeper Thomas Kraft. But that was it for the champions, the rest of the half saw them compressing the center and turning away crosses from the quick-footed Bayern wingers.
Immediately following the Cambiasso chance Bayern were up the field, and from this point on they bossed the match. Die Roten were having success up the left flank with Ribéry and the Croatian Danijel Pranjić overlapping and creating a general nuisance for Maicon. Robben looked sure on Bayern’s right, and his cross at twenty-two minutes found Ribéry’s disfigured head, before making its way onto the crossbar. Ten minutes later Panjić had to come off with an injury, but the attacking movement simply worked more up the right through Robben then, with Thomas Müller dropping back from an attacking midfield roll to collect and help the ball from right to left.
The second half was more of the same, with Bayern even more intent to bring a lead back to the Fatherland. Müller had a chance right at the start, finding space in the box before sending an open header well wide. As they settled into the second half and looked for openings, Munich were stroking the ball around for such long periods that the home fans had the chance to build up quite a whistling dislike. They were struck silent in the 55th minute when Robben sent in a strike that hit the post after some clever movement between the attacking four.
Inter were quick to counter after that chance. It was in fact a very punch, counter-punch affair, though the Germans threw many punches that the Italians simply avoided without attempting a counter-strike. Attack seemed reliant on getting the ball to Sneijder and then to Eto’o (who remained dangerous throughout). And in the 57th minute Eto’o created a great opening for himself and fired a wicked shot in at Kraft, who could only turn it onto an onrushing Cambiasso. This time the spear-bald Italian sent the ball into the upper deck—crisis averted.
In the last ten minutes with the score still level at zeros, Inter began to push up. They caused a number of corners and forced the Bayern defense to scramble to keep the ball out (Thiago Motta forced a sturdy save at the end with a fierce header). This, though, was when Bayern’s Brazilian center back Luiz Gustavo showed his true class. Calm in possession, the part defensive mid /part center back twice took the ball from a dangerous position and simply ran up the field away from danger, leaving the Inter attackers helpless behind him.
Just when it seemed like the game would run out without a goal being put through, Bayern manufactured one final surge up the pitch. Robben collected the ball on the right, dipped inside and sent a blast at Júlio César. The Brazilian keeper couldn’t hold onto the ball, but the Inter defenders had let go of their marks, allowing the great poacher Gomez to lope in unhindered and slide the ball into the net. Bayern with a death blow in the 90th minute, and well deserved after they’d very much dominated the game.