Barca had a big opportunity in front of them, as they had the chance to walk into the Allianz Arena and steal three points from a club that’s had their number in recent history.
Plenty of storylines connected the two clubs, including their recent matchups with each other. But none were more significant than the link between Robert Lewandowski and his old club in Bayern Munich.
If Barca were to win, they would need a big night from their star striker. If he couldn’t deliver, then Barca would be in for a rude and unpleasant night in Munich.
So how did the action pan out? Let’s find out.
The first half saw Barca flip and flop between dominant play and anxiety inducing play, particularly in the midfield.
Xavi prides his teams on keeping possession and avoiding the bad mistakes that lead you to lose it. Like lazy passes in the midfield and lapses in concentration in the opponent’s final third. Barca engaged in both of those negative actions, providing Bayern with ample opportunities to easily regain possession and punish Barca on the counter attack.
Despite the shortcoming though, Barca managed to put together a rather fine first half for the most part.
They were fluid in the midfield, connecting passes and putting together quality play in the attacking third. That then turned into quality chances in the final third, with many of these chances coming from point blank spots in Bayern’s penalty area.
Barca begins to pile on the chances
Take Pedri’s chance in the ninth minute for example. The Spaniard found himself with a clean 1v1 against Manuek Neuer, but his shot lacked precision as it deflected off the legs of Neuer and away from danger.
In the 14th minute, Lewandowski had a chance to score against his former club. The Polish international took possession right back from Bayern after a poor kick from Neuer. Lewandowski then tried to dribble a bit more into the box, where he then attempted to fire a shot towards the goal. But his shot was deflected and sent out for another corner kick.
In the 18th minute, Lewandowski had another chance to score. He controlled the ball in the middle of the box after a pretty pass for Pablo Gavi. But Lewandowski fired his shot over from close range, therefore ending another Barca chance without much in the way of a reward.
You would think Barca would somehow find a way to convert on these chances. But as we saw throughout the first half, that was far from the case.
Barca keeps missing chances
In the 21st minute, Lewandowski was met with a third opportunity to score. After a Marcos Alonso cross, Lewandowski had a clear cut opportunity to guide a header home. But his header was sent straight into the paws of Neuer, who deflected it away from danger after making an impressive save.
In the 26th minute, Raphinha shot a long distance shot just wide of threatening the net. In the 43rd minute, Lewandowski again was presented with a dangerous opportunity to score, but his shot was blocked and sent away from danger.
Barca had a number, and I mean a number of chances to score in the first half. But unlike their previous encounters in La Liga and against Victoria Plzen, they simply weren’t clinical enough in front of goal.
This blatant wasting of chances allowed Bayern to stay in the match. And if you allow Bayern to stay in striking distance, even without Lewandowski down the middle of the attack, they’ll always find a way to punish you for wasting your opportunities.
Barca found that out the hard way in the second half, a half that has many fans frustrated and asking the question “what if”.
Barca knew what they needed to do in order to take control of the match. Continue the fluid play in the midfield and down the wings, and become ruthless and unforgivable in front of goal.
If Barca found a way to do those two things, they would be flying back to Barcelona with three points in hand, and the hanging cloud of back luck against Bayern out of the picture.
But as we saw, Barca simply wasn’t able to pull through.
Barca had a good chance to finally get on the score sheet in the second half. Raphinha played some delicate football to open himself up for a shot, but his long distance shot once again whizzed past the goal, and out of play away from danger.
Again, it was another good opportunity to take control of the match. But Barca simply couldn’t convert, which was the highlight of their story through the night until that point in the match.
Minutes later though, Barca would pay deeply for not scoring earlier. As Bayern got on the score sheet first and sent the Allianz Arena into a frenzy.
Bayern scores first
Joshua Kimmich provided the assist for the goal. He sent a swirling corner into Barca’s penalty area and found the rising head of Lucas Hernandez. The Frenchman then guided his header past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and into the back of the net.
It was 1-0 Bayern and Barca were now tasked with coming from behind after dominating most of the match. This would be a test on the new and improved mentality Barca has lacked for years in big matches. Would they crumble and fall apart like they’ve done many times in the past? Or would they pick theirselves back up and fight to equalize?
Well, just four minutes later, we got our answer.
Bayern scores again
This time, Bayern played their brand of football. Jamal Musiala quickly approached the back of Barca’s defense, putting immense pressure on the defensive lid that Barca was keeping on Bayern’s attack.
Musiala then found a streaking Leroy Sane, who received Musiala’s gorgeous pass without much problem. Sane then took a dribble, then softly lobbed a shot past the outstretched arms of Ter Stegen. After that, Barca could only watch as the ball rolled into the back of the net to give Bayern a 2-0 lead.
Barca had been broken, which no one expected after the stretch of play Barca had displayed in the first half. They were now hit with a somewhat impossible task, which was clawing back from a 2-0 deficit to steal any points they could possibly take.
With their brilliant attacking play, the task seemed plausible. But with how poor their finishing had been, the task felt more like a daunting possibility rather than one that had a good possibility of being achieved.
In the 63rd minute though, Barca went right back to work.
Lewandowski and Pedri exchanged in some good looking link up play, with the former putting the latter through on goal. But Pedri once again couldn’t convert, as his chipped shot bounced before hitting the post.
At this point, all felt hopeless for Barca.
Xavi tried to stop the bleeding by making subs accordingly. But in the end, Barca’s wasted opportunities came back to bite them, as they lost 2-0.
This match was miserable for Barca.
They had so many opportunities to take control of the match, but they couldn’t do so as they wasted the opportunities they created for theirselves.
Now, the questions will start to mount for Barca. Are they truly ready for a return to the premier European stage? What about Lewandowski and his off performance against his former club? What’s the future outlook for the pressing issues that exist, like the lack of control and sustainability in the midfield against Bayern’s press?
These are questions that need answering and they need to be answered as soon as possible. For now though, Barca will have to focus on the domestic side of things, as match will continue to come along and wins will have to be won.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match is on Saturday against Elche.
See you all then!