Benfica vs Bayern Munich – The UEFA Champions League is full of surprises, as this tie,which was claimed to be the weakest of all Quarterfinal encounters, was in fact as thrilling and entertaining as were the other ties of the UCL last eight.
Trips to Benfica have historically been winless for Bayern, and it’s the second time in a row that the German Giants have not won on Portugal’s home soil,with Benfica holding them to a 2-2 draw.
We saw Pep Guardiola fielding Muller as a false nine as expected, giving Lewandowski his needed rest after appearing in the starting lineup for more than a month.
Pep Guardiola’s plan was clear from the start: To keep possession of the ball and score goals from the slow yet effective build up play.The plan was working well because of the men who made the lineup as a defensive midfield pair- Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal. Bayern’s goals were always going to decide this tie more so than the defense because the German side was coming from a clean sheet home win against Benfica. With every goal, Bayern was motivated to send further reinforcements up front.
Benfica, on the other hand, did not play the Juventus way, in the sense that they did not follow much of the pressing game and rather soaked up the pressure exerted by the Bayern attack and went forward on the little time they got on the ball,making decent chances out of it. However, they couldn’t really take the pressure of Bayern’s highly pressing attack and unsurprisingly conceded two goals.Still,Kudos to them to make the most of their opportunities with two of their key players in Jonas and Gaitan missing. Renato Sanches, the youngster who is talked about very much in the news,stood out in his performances and played a role in failing a large number of Bayern attacks.
Arturo Vidal has been showing why he is the man Bayern Munich have been needing since the start of the second half.His forward runs,linking up with Costa and Lahm on the right,with Ribery on the left,his counter pressing that helped Bayern win the ball back quickly and more importantly his brilliant work rate which saw him move up and down the pitch,provide a long range threat and plan late runs into the opposition penalty box just like he did in the first leg.He had three shots more on target than Muller(2) and Ribery(2). Bayern’s machine arguably.
Xabi Alonso was the defensive rock behind and also controlled the distribution from the back,launching long balls to Douglas Costa and Franck Ribery, and protecting the defense in whatever he could, leading the team in touches taken (103) and taking second place behind Javi Martinez in accuracy (94 and 96 percent respectively). He also led the team in tackles (6) and tied Javi in aerials (4).
That said,Bayern still conceded a goal in the most awful manner, due to, Benfica’s man of the match today in Eliseu,who provided a delicious banana cross for a lurking Raul Jimenez to convert the long ball for giving Benfica the lead in the match.What was more intriguing was the fact that both Alaba and Martinez finding themselves beside Jimenez lazily let him receive the long ball.The funnier part was Neuer clearly misjudging the direction of the cross, and diving into Alaba for getting hold of the ball.The trio of Martinez, Alaba and Neuer were all responsible for conceding the first goal.
This hasn’t happened for the first time at all.Back in October 2015, against a Gunners side, Bayern Munich similarly lost out to a cross swung in from the central area of the pitch,against some notable sides in Bundesliga like Borussia Monchengladbach as well.In any case,opponents have exploited this weakness to 100 percent efficiency. Bayern’s fellow semifinalists,take note.
Now let’s look at some less negative and yet amusing factors like that of Philipp Lahm’s growing influence as a forward. You heard that right! It is not a mystery that Lahm’s defensive attributes have declined gradually in the 2015-16 season. His role as a supplementary right winger was often witnessed in many Bundesliga matches and yet again he thrived in his new improved role.
For much of the first half of the game, Bayern’s offense seemed to rely entirely on the captain. Lahm was receiving the ball deep into Benfica territory and crossing the ball with a touch of class time and again,proving to be a danger to the Benfica defense.The break through for the equalizer came through Lahm as well. Costa threading a delicious through ball for Lahm to cross into the penalty box,initially parried by Ederson but only for Vidal to aim from long range and strike the parried ball into where it belongs. Earlier in the match, Lahm had crossed perfectly to find Muller’s head but the latter’s finishing was just off target.Bayern utilized wing play and crossing as much as ever. Their excessive possession gave the team the chance to work the ball to their desired crossing position, and this is the extent to which they attacked Benfica in the first half.
Bayern utilized wing play and crossing as much as ever. Their excessive possession gave the team the chance to work the ball to their desired crossing position, and this is the extent to which they attacked Benfica in the first half.
Another note of surprise was Bayern converting from a set piece. A rare sight. Bayern have always suffered in scoring from set pieces, no matter how accurate the Maestro takes them. Yesterday however, Javi Martinez headed the corner kick to Muller, who knew what he had to do. Despite have a diminished role yesterday obviously because he isn’t the perfect false nine, Muller didn’t fail to score that one.hat couldn’t stop Benfica from putting their never-give-up attitude into action. Javi was at the center of Benfica’s second goal, taking down Gonçalo Guedes just outside the penalty area and receiving a yellow card for his trouble.A soft decision on Martinez,because that was a red card offense arguably. Benfica made the most of the situation: Anderson Talisca scored a goal on a beautiful free kick from 24 m straight into the near corner. Neuer could do nothing about this shot.
Bayern’s second goal didn’t stop Benfica from putting their never-give-up attitude into action. Javi Martinez was at the center of Benfica’s second goal, taking down Gonçalo Guedes just outside the penalty area and receiving a yellow card for his trouble. A soft decision on Martinez, because that was a red card offense arguably. Benfica made the most of the situation: Anderson Talisca scored a beautiful free kick goal from 24 m straight into the near corner. Neuer could do nothing about this shot.
Martinez had a mixed match against Benfica. Statistically superior, one cannot blame his entire performance on the pitch, but he was poor in the important moments and the culprit for both the goals against Benfica. Alaba couldn’t replicate his form he had against Stuttgart and it seems to play the Austrian for a long time in central defense, would mean that he has to be given time to relearn his left back role he is renown for.
Benfica had some other threatening chances between large phases of Bayern’s possession and passing but failed to execute, partly because of the timely brilliance shown by Bayern’s Kimmich and Alonso, and partly because of bad finishing.
In short, Bayern deserved to go through to the semi-finals and SL Benfica can take pride that they made one of the Europe’s heavyweights suffer and really made it hard to get past them.