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

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday