“There’s neither a good coach nor a good defense that can stop [Lionel Messi]. He’s too good, so we must think of stopping him in a different way. … Even if we stay close to him, he will find a way to squeeze in. You can’t defend talent, not a talent of that magnitude.”
[ RECAP: Barca 3-0 Bayern — More Messi magic ]
That was Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola ahead of his side’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg matchup with Barcelona, which ended a 3-0 Barca victory on Wednesday, speaking about his former pupil and irresistible talent Lionel Messi.
As it turns out, Guardiola was right about the diminutive Argentine, as Messi shredded the Bayern defense for a pair of goals (WATCH HERE) and an assist during a 15-minute period of dominance to effectively end the semifinal tie at the halfway point. Still, Guardiola’s men aren’t ceding their place in Europe’s biggest club competition just yet.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, on Bayern’s need to believe in another massive comeback, from the BBC:
“We saw against Porto that always something is possible, but we’re now playing against another team. We have seen today that we did not get many chances, but never say never. We must try to believe.”
Neuer’s message changes drastically in all of three sentences — from ‘we’ve done it before,’ to “We must try to believe” in 36 words. Poor guy, he put in a performance for the ages during the first 45 minutes, singlehandedly papering over the cracks of Guardiola’s kamikaze tactics of the first 20 minutes.
Thomas Muller, on Bayern’s misfortunes in the second half, from the BBC:
“In the second half I had the feeling that we controlled the game better. It is not easy to play here, but I did not feel that we could lose 3-0. But we are Bayern, we keep our head up.
“The fact that it now runs as it did against Porto, it is not expected, but we will do everything again on Tuesday. But it would be a sensation if we came into the final and we will do everything we can in Munich.”
Bayern managed not a single shot on target the entire game, so to say “we controlled the game better” in the second half, is a bit like saying, “We weren’t that good, but neither were they.”
If not for Neuer’s first-half heroics, the tie —forget about the game — would have been completely done and dusted after 45 minutes. The injuries currently hobbling Bayern ‚ Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and David Alaba, to name a few — shouldn’t be ignored, but neither should the fact that Barcelona are hitting their stride (27 wins in their last 29 games in all competitions, including 17 games unbeaten at the moment) at exactly the perfect time of the season, and the word “special” doesn’t even begin to do Messi justice.