For the third consecutive season, Bayern Munich are bowing out of the UEFA Champions League in the semifinals stage. All three losses are to the three giants of Spanish football: Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atlético Madrid.
It hurts to lose.
It hurts even more to lose this way.
Bayern and Atleti scrapped and clawed for every second of the 180 minutes of this tie. When the referee finally blew his whistle to end the second leg at the Allianz Arena, 19 of the 22 players on the field were either inside the Atleti penalty box or within 10 yards of it. Both teams left everything they had on the field. In the end, the team from La Liga will be going to their second Champions League Final in three years, while Bayern will be forced to watch it from home.
By looking at the statistics from the two games (Game 1, Game 2), it's hard to see how Bayern aren't the ones advancing to the Final. Bayern obviously destroyed Atleti in possession, and the sheer number of shots (and shots on target) dwarfs what the Spanish side were able to muster.
However, as everyone knows, stats don't tell the entire story for what actually happens on the field. Atleti has perfected a masterful bend-until-you-can't-bend-any-more-but-don't-break defense, and it was on display in full effect at the Allianz Arena. Bayern threw the kitchen sink at Diego Simeone's troops in the first half, and they could only muster one solitary goal.
Still, Bayern's first half performance led Simeone to say it was the best he's ever seen.
It just wasn't meant to be for Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich.
Yes, that's an easy statement to make following this loss, but the team that can stay healthy and turn itself into the proverbial buzzsaw is always the winner of this competition.
In the last three years, the eventual champions have chewed up and spit out the competition on their way to lifting the trophy. Bayern did it on their way to London. Real Madrid did it on the way to La Decima. Last season, Barcelona did it on their way to winning another treble. Atleti is now following in their footsteps, having eliminated Barcelona and Bayern, long considered the two best teams in the world, in consecutive rounds.
You can pick and critique lineup decisions until the end of time, but it doesn't change the fact that Guardiola is one of the best coaches in the game today. Yes, he will occasionally get it wrong, but more often than not he's right on the money.
Unfortunately, some Bayern fans are learning the same hard lesson learned by Real Madrid from 2002 to 2014.
"Being Bayern Munich" isn't good enough to win the UEFA Champions League.
Getting through the group stage is a cakewalk for most of the big teams, but everything is up for grabs once you hit the quarterfinals. Do you remember Atleti's Round of 16 game or have you forgotten it after they knocked out Barca and Bayern? After two scoreless draws, they advanced 8-7 on penalties against PSV Eindhoven. Who could've seen this coming?
Elder statesman Alonso can't prevent Bayern from getting knocked out
Xabi Alonso did a masterful job of directing Bayern Munich's game, scored a goal to tie the series in the first half, and played an all-around excellent game. But, it wasn't enough, as the counter goal by Atletico Madrid nixed Bayern's dream of making the CL final in Pep's last season.
Bayern need to be their normally great self and have a little bit of luck on their side to win this competition. Every team does. It's impossible to win the Champions League without luck.
Guardiola's Bayern squad made it to the semifinals of three consecutive semifinals of a European Cup for only the second time in the club's history. Getting this far in the Champions League is hard to do. Unfortunately, Guardiola's side came up short in all three semifinals.
It's time to turn the focus toward winning the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal.