The dream is over. Bayern Munich’s sparkling run through a killer Champions League gauntlet has come to an unceremonious end at the hands of Manchester City.
A bright start and near misses from Leroy Sané and Kingsley Coman weren’t enough to put a dent in City’s 3-0 first leg advantage, and Erling Haaland scored near the hour mark to effectively put the tie to bed.
A late penalty, coolly converted by captain Joshua Kimmich, offered little consolation.
In the end, Bayern were sent home as 1-4 losers on aggregate, with manager Thomas Tuchel sent off besides after two yellow cards earned arguing with officials. For the third straight season, the Bavarians are out at the quarter-finals.
Two years ago it was Tuchel, then at Chelsea, who bested Pep Guardiola’s City in the Champions League Final. This time it was the City and ex-Bayern manager who carried the day, spoiling what had been a dazzling demonstration of Bavarian might in the Europe. It’s an unsavory denouement whose taste will linger.
Bayern’s board have written themselves prominently into this story as well. Their March sacking of Julian Nagelsmann will be seen, rightly or wrongly, as a turning point in the campaign. After all, Bayern had been flying through the UCL, demolishing in succession the likes of FC Barcelona, Inter Milan, and Paris Saint-Germain — all without being scored upon once.
While Bayern execs insist that new manager Thomas Tuchel won’t be evaluated until next season, his early tenure has now been marked by one setback after another. If Nagelsmann had the team on a declining performance curve, they’ve stepped the trend into overdrive in the wake of his exit. Between dropped points, dual tournament exits, and Sadio Mané’s physical altercation with teammate Leroy Sané, Bayern have the makings of a club teetering on the edge.
The players, too, are far from blameless. An uncharacteristic collapse late in the first leg put Bayern in this position, and late-game lapses have cost all season long.
Firing a coach was certainly one way to send a message that standards were slipping, and the tough love is continuing: sporting director Hasan “Brazzo” Salihamidžić is set to meet with all his players face-to-face to demand more responsibility. How many more buttons to push and levers to pull, should this, too, not achieve the desired effect?
“We imagined things going differently,” CEO Oliver Kahn said recently, no doubt echoing the sentiment of much of the Bavarian faithful.
Now Bayern supporters and team executives alike are left to wonder. How did it come to this? And where do they go from here?
Can’t get enough analysis of the game? Then why not check out our postgame podcast? We break down what worked and what didn’t as Bayern Munich succumbed to another Champions League elimination to Manchester City. Listen to it below or on Spotify.
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