Bayern beats Barcelona, setting up all-German CL final

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Bayern beats Barcelona, setting up all-German CL final

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Bayern Munich players celebrate after scoring a goal against Barcelona during their Champions League semifinal second leg match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday. [REUTERS/NEWSIS]

BARCELONA, Spain - Bayern Munich beat a Barcelona side missing Lionel Messi, 3-0, on Wednesday to seal a crushing 7-0 win on aggregate and line up an all-German Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund.

Without its all-time leading scorer, apparently not fit from his right hamstring injury, Barcelona failed to seriously threaten Bayern’s goal - much less an epic comeback after its 4-0 first-leg defeat.

“We played an outstanding game but there is a difference of Barca with and without Messi. But it is a result one could not forecast,” Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes told ZDF television.

“I know the philosophy of Barcelona and my team understood extremely well how to deploy our tactics. It was harder than it looked. My team was very focused .?.?. we knew what we were up against.”

Bayern forward Arjen Robben opened the scoring in the 49th minute. Barcelona’s Gerard Pique scored an own goal in the 72nd, followed by Thomas Mueller’s headed goal four minutes later, as Barcelona slumped to its first home loss in European competition since 2009.

Bayern will face Dortmund in the final on May 25 at Wembley Stadium.

While fellow Spanish side Real Madrid won, 2-0, on Tuesday to almost reverse its 4-1 first-leg loss to Dortmund, Barcelona didn’t even come close and definitely didn’t bow out of Europe’s top-tier competition gracefully.

Instead, its second stinging defeat to the newly crowned German champions will surely open a period of reflection in the club, despite being on course to win the Spanish league title. The Catalan side has been seriously outclassed for the first time since a trophy-laden era started in 2008 under the guidance of former coach Pep Guardiola, who will take over as Bayern coach next season.

Cracks had already appeared in Barcelona’s dominance during the round of 16 with a 2-0 loss at AC Milan, before Messi dug down and scored twice to help secure a 4-0 win.

And after this tie, it’s clear that the power has shifted away from Camp Nou further east.

Besides Messi, Barcelona was also missing Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano. But the truth is that even with several Spanish internationals on the pitch, Bayern was the better side.

Bayern destroyed Barcelona in their first meeting last week, looking both the fresher and more imaginative side, while holding Messi in check without much trouble.

And although Messi had done little in the loss in Germany, nobody had expected him not to start - given that his team faced an already daunting challenge of pulling off a historic comeback.

Since injuring his leg on April 2 against Paris Saint-Germain, Messi’s only start had been against Bayern. He had missed three games and came off the bench in two more, including last Saturday’s Spanish league game at Athletic Bilbao, where he looked to be back in top shape after scoring a superb goal and setting up another in the 2-2 draw.

If coach Tito Vilanova had kept Messi on the bench to spur his other players on, the plan backfired.

Camp Nou was uncharacteristically subdued from the start as if the absence of Messi had robbed the home fans of their last hopes.

Neither side played with the tension expected for a Champions League semifinal; Bayern because it was in command, and Barcelona seemingly lacking in belief.

Needing to score at least four goals to send the game into extra time, Barcelona didn’t seriously threaten Bayern’s area in the first 45 minutes and was limited to Pedro Rodriguez’s rising shot in the 24th to give goalkeeper Manuel Neuer his first save. Barcelona could muster little else, while Bayern provided a constant threat on the break.

AP, Reuters
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