History’s context: Where does Bayern’s win rank among Europe’s great routs?

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If you’re having trouble establishing context on Bayern Munich’s mastery of Barcelona, that’s a good reason for that. Look back on the 57 years of European Cup competition and you’re unlikely to find a result that carries all the facets that make Bayern’s 7-0 (aggregate) rout of Barça historic:

  • 1. Magnitude – Seven-goal results aren’t unheard of, but even when they happen in Champions League’s preliminary rounds, we take notice.
  • 2. Two-legged tie – To dominate over 90 minutes is one thing. To do it over 180 minutes, home and away, giving your opposition time in between to make adjustments? It’s a higher level of difficulty.
  • 3. Level of the competition – Bayern’s rout happened in the semifinals. Not in the preliminary round, where big versus little country matchups happen. And it didn’t happen in the Round of 16, where the second place team from a weak group could be matched with one of the competition’s favorites. This was one step before the finals, long after each team had established themselves in the competition.
  • 4. Two established powers – It meant something that this was Bayern versus Barcelona. Two members of European soccer royalty, the clubs have a long and successful history to draw on. They also have resources few other teams have. I makes lopsided results like these (at least, from Barça’s perspective) that much more remarkable.
  • 5. Uncertainty before the tie – And if people were expecting Bayern to role, that would put this result in an entirely different light. But there were a lot of people predicting Barcelona would go through over Bayern, lending to the shock of Wednesday’s result.

After thumbing through history, there were a handful of results that come close to matching Bayern-Barça. These three stuck out:

1965-66 – Manchester United 8-3 Benfica

Benfica had appeared in four of the five European Cup finals, losing the previous season’s final game 1-0 to Internazionale at the San Siro. Manchester United, in contrast, hadn’t been in the European Cup since the 1957-58 season, when plane crash on the team’s return from Belgrade, Yugoslavia let to the death of nine of Matt Busby’s Babes.

Meeting in the quarterfinals, United responded to José Augusto’s opening goal at Old Trafford with three goals in 22 minutes, with only a late José Torres goal bringing Benfica, by then two-time champions, back into the tie.

It was an impressive result against a team who, along with two-time defending champions Inter and five-time champions Real Madrid, were one of the competition’s favorites. In Lisbon, however, the Red Devils blew it open. Two goals from George Best in the first 13 minutes gave United a 5-2 aggregate lead. Busby, still managing United, saw his team tack on three more as well gift Benfica an own goal on their way to a five-goal romp.

Manchester United would have to return to Belgrade for the semifinal, losing 2-0 to Partizan en route to being eliminated on aggregate, 2-1. Real Madrid went on to win their sixth title, though two years later, United finally broke through, claiming their first European title at Wembley Stadium. Their opponent that day in 1968? Benfica, who lost 4-1.

1988-89 – Real Madrid 1-6 Milan

By April 1989, Real Madrid were 23 years without a title, but their semifinal tie against Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan was still the most glamorous of the season’s competition. With both teams coming off one-goal wins in the quarterfinals, there didn’t appear to be much between the squads ahead of leg one at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Forty-two minutes in, Mexican international Hugo Sánchez put the home side up, but when Marco van Basten equalized late in the second half, Milan had their result ahead of the return leg at the San Siro. There, Sacchi’s team got goals from Carlo Ancelotti, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit, van Basten and Donadoni – all before the hour mark. Coming at the expense of Real Madrid, Milan’s 5-0 win stands as one of the more memorable matches of the last 25 years.

The victory announced the arrival of one of the greatest club teams of all-time, a squad that was nearly eliminated in each of the previous rounds. While the team would go on to win the next two Champions Leagues (and another in 1993-94), they needed penalty kicks to get past Red Star Belgrade in the Round of 16. In the quarterfinals, a controversial penalty (converted by van Bastern) was all that separated the Rossoneri from Werder Bremen.

After Sánchez’s opener at the Bernabéu, Milan turned a corner. They scored 10 straight goals over the next 210 minutes, defeated Steaua Bucuresti 4-0 in the final in Barcelona, and went on to become the benchmark against which we measure all great clubs that have followed.

1996-97 – Ajax 2-6 Juventus

Coming off quarterfinal wins over Atlético Madrid and Rosenborg, Ajax and Juventus met in a highly anticipated rematch of the previous year’s final. Then, Juventus took the defending champions to penalty kicks, eventually winning the shootout at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.

With two first half goals in semifinal’s first leg in Amsterdam, Juventus jumped out early, with only a second half goal from Jari Litmanen giving Louis van Gaal’s team a chance going to Turin. There, first half goals from Attilio Lombardo and Christian Vieri put the tie away by half time. Juve would go on to win the second leg, 4-1.

Juventus faced Borussia Dortmund in the final, but two first half goals five minutes apart from Karl-Heinz Riedle set BVB’s course for a 3-1 victory. Dortmund won their first European Cup, while Juventus was denied back-to-back titles.

Marcello Lippi’s team made a third straight final the following season, returning to Amsterdam to face Real Madrid. Unfortunately for the Old Lady, the Merengues went on to claim their seventh title, with Predrag Mijatovic’s 66th goal giving El Real a 1-0 victory.


None of these results have the sway of Bayern’s performance. Munich’s dominance wasn’t built on one, lopsided leg. It extended over the entire 180 minutes, and it was done against a team many considered the continent’s benchmark.

That they make it look so easy, not allowing a goal against such a vaunted attack, adds an element of shock. Nobody’s taken back by that Bayern won. It’s how they won.

Just as Milan’s late 80s-early 90s team because a benchmark with its Champions League performances, so did Bayern became a standard with today’s win. Now, whenever there’s a lopsided result in Champions League, the accomplishment will be compared to Bayern’s. Most won’t stand up.


Others that stood out:

1977-78 – Red Star Belgrade 1-8 Borussia Moenchengladbach
1982-83 – Aston Villa 2-5 Juventus
1998-99 – Bayern Munich 6-0 Kaiserslautern
2008-09 – Sporting CP 1-12 Bayern Munich
2009-10 – Milan 2-7 Manchester United
2010-11 – Schalke 7-3 Internazionale

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.

Southgate can see Defoe in England squad long-term

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Gareth Southgate praised Jermain Defoe after his contributions to England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania on Sunday, but accidentally put a condition on his position in the squad.

The 34-year-old scored the opening goal and contributed heavily to the buildup of Jamie Vardy‘s score, and Southgate was happy that his decision to play an in-form striker paid off.

“If he scores like he is in the Premier League, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be,” Southgate said. “We’re never able to pick a full cohort, so it’s important we can call upon the likes of Jermain and he can have the impact like he did today.

“I think we’ve got to look every time we get together as to who is in form. I don’t know if we can have a distinct pecking order because players who are playing well deserve the opportunity. If we are going to be successful, we have to have that competition for places. The reality is we will always lose players to injury.”

[ MORE: Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery before England game ]

A reporter asked him to clarify why he specified that Defoe should be scoring in the Premier League, and with his club Sunderland under heavy threat of relegation, Southgate admitted he let one slip.

“I walked into that,” Southgate said. “I guess the ideal world for all our players is they are playing regularly at a high level. The flip-side is we don’t have a huge pool of players to pick from.  We have to balance off a few different things. I can’t constrain myself on selection entirely, but I know ideally what I’d like to have. His performances and his goalscoring form this season have counted for him.”

Defoe has 14 goals in 28 Premier League appearances for Sunderland this season, but he’s proved the Black Cats’ only threat as they sit bottom of the league table with 20 points. Defoe has become the center of opposition game plans, and as a result he’s slowed down, with just two goals in his last seven games, and the club has little else to pick up the slack.

Still, at 34 years old, many wonder how much longer Defoe can contribute, and if he’ll be a viable option for next year’s World Cup.

Group F gets messy as Slovakia and Scotland grab wins

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England is in control at the top of Group F, but below them things are beginning to get complicated.

Despite the absence of Marek Hamsik due to a last-minute injury, Slovakia defeated Malta 3-1. They took the lead just 97 seconds in as Vladimir Weiss put the visitors in front with a beautiful curling strike from outside the box. Malta struck back through domestic striker Jean Paul Farrugia in the 14th minute, but that was all Malta could muster.

Slovakia would go ahead just before halftime as FC Copenhagen midfielder Jan Gregus put them in front in the 41st minute. The speculative shot from Gregus came from a great distance out, and as it skipped across the ground, it appeared Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg saw it late, as his dive was poor and it skipped off his hands and in.

Both teams ended with 10 men on the field, as Farrugia was sent off with 16 minutes to go for a second yellow, and Adam Nemec saw the same fate in injury time, but before he was sent off, Nemec was there to kill the game off in the 84th minute.

That put Slovakia up to nine points, and it moved them into second place thanks to late drama in Glasgow. Chris Martin gave Scotland all three points with an 88th minute strike as the home side won 1-0 over Slovenia, who dropped from second to third with the loss. The Fulham striker got a beautiful feed through the back line from Stuart Armstrong, and while his shot wasn’t terribly accurate, it was enough to win the game as Slovenia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik gave it a poor effort.

The win for Scotland pulls them above Lithuania and into fourth, a point back of Slovenia in third.