Bayern Munich finished an up-and-down Champions League group stage on an "up" note, decisively beating BATE Borisov to clinch first place in the group. Despite a few stumbles, it's fair to say we were the best, most consistently solid team of the 4, and we showed it today with an emphatic win despite being down a man for part of the match.
Coming into the day, Bayern knew we were already through to the next round, but a win would secure a first place finish (and, thereby, a draw against another group's runner-up). Bayern had a few changes in the line-up, with a recalibrated back line and our famous winger duo of Ribery and Robben both on the bench. Even so, FC Bayern controlled the possession from the opening touch and put the Borisov goal under siege.
There were a few heart-in-throat moments in the first 20 minutes, though, as BATE twice had decent opportunities to threaten. First, Diego Contento made a nice hustle play to knock away the ball on a BATE break. Then, Contento permitted a BATE chance by failing to close down on his man, with Neuer required to make a diving (fine ... leaning) save to his left. In between these chances, Toni Kroos has a chance to unleash one of his patented middle-distance shots for Bayern, but inexplicably tried to take an extra dribble and gave the ball away.
Bayern's eventual breakthough was well-deserved, and it came from a "not-to-be-denied" run to the end line from the left by Xherdan Shaqiri:
Nice play all around, and good to see Gomez got his name in the books. We went into halftime like this, and Bayern supporters had to be feeling confident. But things got a little nervy when Boateng was shown a red for a rough challenge (maybe a technically legitimate call by the rule book, but in my mind a harsh call to make in a Champions League match):
If anything, though, the sending off galvanized Bayern, and Thomas Mueller made sure of the win a few minutes later. And once we went down to 10-on-10, it was party time for Bayern. Shaqiri (header from a cross) and David Alaba (nice volley) both found the net, with BATE's late strike a consolation, at best. Full highlights should be here:
With a first place finish, Bayern will face a runner-up of another group. Valencia is out, but everyone else is available (all 3 German teams finished atop their respective groups). Here are the options, as best I can tell:
- AC Milan
- Real Madrid
- Galatasaray (see below - our thanks to Nick for the correction)
if I got anything wrong here, let me know, but I think ^ those are the possibilities. We'll be back with some more analysis later, just wanted to get the video clips up. Thanks for reading.