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Ronaldo hat-trick fires Real into semis

April 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored a controversial hat-trick to become the first man to reach 100 Champions League goals as Real Madrid overcame 10-man Bayern Munich 4-2 after extra time in Tuesday’s thrilling quarter-final second leg.

Ronaldo

The holders surged through 6-3 on aggregate at an exhilarated Santiago Bernabeu to take their place in Friday’s semi-final draw for a record seventh consecutive year.

But Real were pushed all the way by Bayern, who battled back from a 2-1 first-leg deficit to send the tie into extra time thanks to Robert Lewandowski’s penalty and an own goal from Sergio Ramos.

However, after Arturo Vidal was sent off, Ronaldo hit the century mark in Europe’s top club competition on 104 minutes and completed his hat-trick five minutes later.

Bayern were left incensed, though, as Ronaldo’s second and third goals were clearly offside.

“To score six goals against a team like Bayern Munich isn’t easy so we deserved to go through,” the Portuguese striker told Spanish TV station Antena 3.

“Real Madrid is Real Madrid, we are used to suffering and we are happy to be in the semis once again.”

Marco Asensio gave a night of high-class action the finale it deserved with a sensational solo goal to rub salt in Bayern wounds.

“The (red) card for Arturo wasn’t a card and then the two goals from Cristiano are offside so clearly we are not happy,” said Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti.

“In a quarter-final you have to put a better referee, or it is the moment to introduce video refereeing, which is what UEFA are trying because there are too many errors.”

The German champions had been beaten on their previous four trips to Spain without even scoring a goal.

However, knowing they needed at least two to progress, Ancelotti’s men started on the front foot and were left to rue a huge opportunity just eight minutes in.

Marcelo made a miraculous block to deny Thiago Alcantara before former Real winger Arjen Robben scuffed into the side-netting on his trusted left foot.

Much like the first leg, Madrid weathered the early storm and had plenty of chances to go in front before half time.

Jerome Boateng bailed out a rare mistake from goalkeeper Manuel Neuer as he cleared off the line from Ramos after Neuer fumbled a simple cross.

The half-time whistle brought some respite to proceedings on the field, although the Bayern fans were involved in a minor clash with police at the break.

The disturbances quickly died down and Bayern soon gave the travelling 4,000 from Germany something to cheer when play resumed.

Another goal-line clearance by Marcelo from Robben’s dinked effort temporarily saved Madrid.

But the hosts didn’t escape moments later when referee Viktor Kassai pointed to the spot as Robben went down under a challenge from Casemiro.

Lewandowski stayed cool under the pressure and converted from the spot for his 39th goal of the season.

Ronaldo looked to have eased Madrid’s nerves when he steered Casemiro’s cross into the far corner 14 minutes from time.

However, Real’s celebrations were very short-lived as just a minute later the ball ricocheted around their box and Ramos turned into his own net.

The balance of a topsy-turvy tie turned Madrid’s way again with five minutes remaining as just as in the first leg, Bayern were reduced to 10 men when Vidal saw a second yellow card for chopping down Asensio.

The extra man proved decisive as Madrid settled the tie with a three-goal burst either side of half time in extra time.

Ronaldo took advantage at not being flagged for offside as he controlled and fired low past Neuer to become the first man to reach a Champions League century.

Four minutes into the second period of extra time he had Marcelo to thank for a brilliant run and unselfish pass that allowed the Portuguese the simplest of finishes to complete his hat-trick despite again being in an offside position.

And Asensio sealed victory in sensational style with a stunning solo run and low right-footed finish as many Bayern players sank to their knees knowing Champions League glory had passed them by for another year.

Ronaldo hits 100th European goal as Real Madrid win at Bayern

April 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Cristiano Ronaldo netted his 100th European goal on Wednesday to give holders Real Madrid a 2-1 comeback win at 10-man Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-final, first-leg.

Ronaldo

“I wanted to reach this record. To be able to reach this mark is an honour and against a team like Bayern it is even better,” Ronaldo, who scored both goals, told BeIN Sport Spain.

Arturo Vidal headed Bayern into a first-half lead, but then skied a penalty attempt on the stroke of half-time before Ronaldo volleyed the defending champions’ level.

Bayern played the last half an hour a man down after centre-back Javi Martinez was sent off for two fouls on Ronaldo within three minutes of each other.

Four-time world player of the year Ronaldo then slotted in the winner between goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s legs for the winner 13 minutes from time.

“We believe we can still do it, we were the better team in the first half, could have made it 2-0 or 3-0,” Neuer told ZDF.

But Bayern were outplayed in the second-half and most of Real’s 23 shots on goal came after the break.

“We had everything under control in the first half, but didn’t use the room consistently,” said captain Philipp Lahm. “The tipping point was the red card.”

Security was tight at the Allianz Arena in the wake of Tuesday’s attacks on the Borussia Dortmund team bus and both teams arrived with a heavy police escort.

There was a large police presence and inside the stadium there was polite applause when the announcer made reference to Dortmund’s ordeal in the preceeding 24 hours.

Bayern suffered a blow before kick-off when top-scorer Robert Lewandowski, who has netted 38 goals this season, dropped out with a bruised shoulder and Thomas Muller deputised as striker.

Bayern were also missing injured Germany defender Mats Hummels against Real’s formidable BBC attack – Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Ronaldo.

Bayern went ahead on 25 minutes when playmaker Thiago Alcantara swung in a corner from the right which Vidal powered through Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas’s hands.

The Chile midfielder could have added a second when he headed Arjen Robben’s cross wide of the post soon after.

Real made a poor start, rarely threatening Germany’s goalkeeper Neuer, back after minor foot surgery a fortnight ago.

A strong drive from Ronaldo on 41 minutes which Neuer blocked having palmed a Benzema header onto the woodwork with 18 minutes played were their best first-half chances.

Vidal could have finished with a first-half hat-trick when he stepped up to take a penalty after Dani Carvajal’s handball from a Franck Ribery shot.

However, the Chilean smashed the spot-kick high over the crossbar.

It was a miss Bayern were soon to regret.

Real were level two minutes after the break when Carvajal found space on the right and fired in a cross which Ronaldo volleyed past Neuer.

Bale, who has laboured with an ankle injury recently, came off on 58 minutes and Real raised the tempo after he trudged off.

Having already picked up a yellow card for pulling Ronaldo back on 58 minutes, Martinez was shown a red for again fouling the Portugal captain just three minutes later.

Real’s superstar then hit the winner as substitute Marco Asensio, on for Bale, put in a low pass for Ronaldo to tap the ball home between Neuer’s legs.

Real defender Sergio Ramos had the ball in the Bayern net with time running out, but the goal was ruled offside but the Spaniards have the upper hand for the second leg at home next Tuesday.

Bayern host Real Madrid in Champions League quarter-final 1st-leg

April 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bayern Munich host Real Madrid in Wednesday’s mouthwatering Champions League quarter-final, first-leg, with Carlo Ancelotti’s Bavarians looking once again to be the Spaniards’ ‘bete noire’.

Real Madrid

And the subplots to the Allianz Arena clash are fascinating.

Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti coached Real to the 2014 Champions League crown and is up against his former assistant from that triumph, Madrid’s current head coach Zinedine Zidane.

World Cup 2010 winner Xabi Alonso, who also won the 2014 Champions League before joining Bayern, will face his ex-club for the last time before retiring in June.

And Real’s Germany midfielder Toni Kroos is another to be coming up against his former employers.

Ancelotti says “little things will make the difference” between the star-studded squads that will see two goal-scoring giants go head-to-head.

Bayern’s top-scorer Robert Lewandowski, with 38 goals in all competitions this season, is up against Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, with 26 goals from 36 games.

That may be modest by his standards, but Ronaldo has tormented Bayern in the past with four goals in as many games and the Bavarians will be wary, especially with backup from Wales star Gareth Bale and France’s Karim Benzema.

Lewandowski suffered a bruised shoulder in scoring twice in Saturday’s 4-1 hammering of Borussia Dortmund, but expects to be “100 percent” fit.

Bayern are on a Champions League record of 16 straight European wins at the Allianz Arena and that’s a record Dutch winger Arjen Robben is keen to maintain.

“We have to up the ante, we have to signal (to Real) from the first minute that there is nothing to take in Munich and we want to win the game,” he said.

Bayern are looking to recover their ‘bete noire’ nickname, given to them by Real fans after Munich won eight of 14 matches against Real between 2000 and 2012.

All that changed in the 2014 Champions League’s semi-final when the team coached by Pep Guardiola was thrashed 4-0 in Munich, crashing out 5-0 on aggregate as Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos netted twice each.

That defeat remains Bayern’s record home European loss, yet there is no talk of revenge ahead of Wednesday’s clash.

“This is the quarter-finals, but it sounds like a final,” said Bayern captain Philipp Lahm.

“We’re playing against an absolute top team, who have top players in every position. We will have to play to our potential.”

Both sides are missing key defenders, though.

Germany’s Mats Hummels was ruled out after damaging ankle ligaments on Sunday so Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez will form the centre-back partnership.

Hummels faces a race against time to be back for the return at the Santiago Bernabeu on April 18, while Real have defenders Pepe and Raphael Varane ruled out of both legs.

Pepe suffered a double rib fracture in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid, while Varane is out for a month with a hamstring injury.

Right-back Daniel Carvajal trained on his own on Monday and is struggling with a knock.

Bayern received a boost on Monday with Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer back in training following a minor foot operation 10 days ago, while Thomas Mueller is also fit after an ankle injury.

“We’re very confident. It’s a European cracker featuring two top teams,” said Mueller.

“We also notice it outside the club, not only in terms of the media, but also when talking to friends or acquaintances in Munich.

“Everyone’s talking about the game.”

Thiago-inspired Bayern hand Arsenal 5-1 rout

February 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Arsene Wenger’s future was plunged into further doubt on Wednesday as Thiago Alcantara inspired Bayern Munich to a 5-1 rout of hapless Arsenal to leave the Gunners facing a seventh straight Champions League last-16 exit.

Bayern Munich

Bayern extended their Champions League record to 16 straight home wins by flooring the Gunners with three goals in ten second-half minutes.

“That was a good performance, which perhaps wasn’t so expected,” said Thiago, who scored twice.

“We were playing at home, knew we had to score a few goals and everything worked very well after the break.”

Bayern knocked Arsenal out at the same stage in 2005, 2013 and 2014 and look comfortably placed to make it four times after romping through Wednesday’s first leg.

The Allianz Arena defeat raises the pressure on Wenger for the return leg on March 7 with only Alexis Sanchez’s away goal for comfort.

The result matched the 5-1 group-stage thrashing Arsenal received in Munich in November 2015 — the club’s joint record away defeat in Europe.

Arjen Robben’s superb curling shot gave Bayern the lead on 11 minutes, but Sanchez levelled by drilling home after Manuel Neuer saved his penalty on 30 minutes.

Robben also admitted he was surprised by the big win.

“Things worked very well,” said the Dutch winger.

“I am a bit surprised that we played so well, but on the other hand, I know the team has great character and can move up a gear when it matters.”

Bayern hit top gear after the break with a flurry of goals in quick succession.

Robert Lewandowski headed Bayern back into the lead on 53 minutes before Thiago added two in quick succession while Thomas Mueller came off the bench to complete the rout.

Bayern spent the opening minutes camped in the Arsenal half and took the lead on 10 minutes through Robben’s wonderful strike.

The Dutch winger cut in from the right and curled home a superbly-weighted shot off his left foot from outside the area.

Arsenal then raised the tempo and started pressing the hosts.

Bayern defender Mats Hummels was given a yellow card for fouling Sanchez just outside the box.

Mesut Ozil drilled the resulting free-kick at Neuer, but moments later Arsenal were awarded a penalty.

Lewandowski mistimed a clearance in the area and struck Laurent Koscielny’s raised leg.

Despite Bayern’s furious protests, Serbian referee Milorad Mazic pointed to the spot.

Neuer saved Sanchez’s penalty, but the Chile international drilled home the rebound at the second attempt.

It was the valuable away goal Bayern had talked about not conceding in the match’s build-up.

There were equally furious Bayern protests at the other end when David Alaba’s cross struck Hector Bellerin on the hand, but the referee waved play on.

It was 1-1 at the break, but Bayern stepped up the pressure in the second half.

Robben released Philipp Lahm who put in a perfect cross and Lewandowski twisted to tuck his header past David Ospina’s reach.

The Poland hot-shot then flicked Xabi Alonso’s pass into Thiago’s path and the former Barcelona midfielder fired past Ospina.

Lewandowski hit the crossbar on 61 minutes, but Thiago added his second when his shot from the edge of the box deflected past the Arsenal goalkeeper on 63 minutes.

Mueller came on for Lewandowski on 86 minutes and added Bayern’s fifth two minutes later after Thiago squared the final pass.

Pressure on Wenger to break Bayern curse in Champions League

February 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Arsene Wenger is once again under pressure to end Arsenal’s Champions League last-16 misery as the Gunners travel to bogey team Bayern Munich in Wednesday’s first leg.

Arsenal

Bayern are riding a record 15-match home winning streak in Europe with the midweek clash marking the 11th meeting between the sides at Munich’s Allianz Arena in the Champions League.

Arsenal have suffered last-16 defeats in each of the last six seasons, losing to Bayern in both 2013 and 2014, and another early exit would further ramp up the pressure on 67-year-old Wenger to quit after 20 years in charge.

The teams know each other well, having met six times in the last four years, and Bayern thrashed the Gunners 5-1 in Munich in their previous meeting in November 2015.

Arsenal warmed up for their trip to Germany with a 2-0 win over Hull as Alexis Sanchez scored both goals to stop the rot following back-to-back league defeats to Chelsea and Watford.

The Gunners are confident for the Allianz Arena leg with the return in London on March 7.

“If we put in our best performance, then we can beat Bayern as well,” Arsenal’s German defender Shkodran Mustafi told Sky.

“It’s down to us and it’s in our hands.”

Arsenal beat Bayern 2-0 in Munich in 2013, but still lost the last-16 tie following a 3-1 defeat in the first leg in London as the Germans went on to win that year’s final at Wembley.

“We have already won there and I feel we have a chance to go through,” said Wenger.

Midfielder Mesut Ozil, another Germany international, is enduring a dip in form, though, and has not scored since early December.

“It’s time for him to score again,” said Wenger. “I felt he did not feel confident (against Hull).

“It’s always a problem because you think he can deliver something special.”

Arsenal are third in the English Premier League, 10 points behind leaders Chelsea, while Bayern are seven clear in Germany’s top flight.

The Bavarians have reached the semi-final stage in Europe in each of the last three years, but Bayern are itching to go one better and reach the Cardiff final on June 3.

Despite their lead in the Bundesliga, Bayern have turned in below-par performances in recent weeks and needed two late goals to earn a 2-0 win at relegation-threatened Ingolstadt on Saturday.

Xabi Alonso suffered an injury scare in training on Monday, while Bayern will be missing defender Jerome Boateng and winger Franck Ribery, who are recovering from shoulder and thigh injuries respectively.

Germany forward Thomas Mueller is enduring a goal drought with just one goal in 17 league games this term, but Robert Lewandowski has hit 23 goals in all competitions and is relishing the Arsenal showdown.

“Everyone is waiting for this game and it’ll be a big challenge for us,” said Lewandowski.

“Arsenal have very good players, but we need to concentrate on ourselves and if we play our best football, Arsenal probably won’t have many chances.

“We need to score at least once and concede nothing, then it’ll be a good evening for us.”

Bayern romp delights Ancelotti after winless dip

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti said their 4-1 romp against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League was the reaction he was looking for after a three-match winless streak.

Alonso

Bayern bounced back in emphatic style on Wednesday at the Allianz Arena with winger Arjen Robben in outstanding form.

Goals by Thomas Mueller and Joshua Kimmich put Bayern ahead before Luciano Narsingh netted for Eindhoven before the break.

But Bayern dominated the second-half with Robert Lewandowski putting them 3-1 up before Robben, who had set up two of their goals, added the fourth.

The German media had spoken of a ‘mini-crisis’ after Bayern’s Bundesliga draws with Cologne and Eintracht Frankfurt in the wake of their 1-0 defeat at Champions League Group D leaders Atletico Madrid.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had branded their attitude in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Frankfurt as “unacceptable”, but Ancelotti was pleased with his side’s response against PSV.

“That was the reaction I expect from the team, the attitude was good, we learnt our lessons from Frankfurt,” said the Italian, who had won his first eight games in charge before the Madrid defeat.

“We very happy to have Manuel Neuer,” Ancelotti added after the Germany goalkeeper pulled off a string of good saves to deny Eindhoven’s attack.

Bayern face PSV away in a fortnight, then travel to face Russian side Rostov before hosting Atletico in their final group match on December 6 in a game likely to decide who wins the pool.

“We played well, but we have to give our best in the next few games to make sure we play Atletico for first place,” warned Ancelotti.

Robben said Bayern deserved the win, but need to build on the performance when the Bundesliga leaders return to domestic duty at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday.

“We started very well, dominated straight away and put them under pressure,” said the Dutchman as Mueller and Kimmich both netted in the first 21 minutes.

“We didn’t hold them very well after we went 2-0 up and you have to always be careful.

“Eindhoven were dangerous two or three times, but they we got back on top and deserved to win.

“We knew we had to start well, and be aggressive and play with self-confidence at home, after our three games without a win.

“We should have scored more in the first half, perhaps that is our only criticism, and we have to keep playing well like this.

“It was nice to get the header, but it was down to the beatiful pass from Thiago, he deserves the credit,” added the 32-year-old added after scoring his first headed goal in the Champions League.

Atletico inflict more pain on Ancelotti’s Bayern

September 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Atletico Madrid haunted Bayern Munich once more as Yannick Carrasco inflicted Carlo Ancelotti’s first defeat as coach of the German giants with a 1-0 win at the Vicente Calderon in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Atletico

The Spaniards eliminated Bayern on away goals in the semi-finals of last season’s Champions League and there was to be no revenge for the five-time European champions as Carrasco drove the ball in off the inside of the post 10 minutes before half-time.

Thomas Mueller had Bayern’s best effort, but was denied by a sensational save from Jan Oblak early on as the German champions failed to score on Spanish soil for the fourth consecutive trip.

And Atletico could even afford the luxury of missing a penalty seven minutes from time when Antoine Griezmann rattled the bar from the spot.

“I feel so proud to be the coach of this team,” said Simeone, who extended his incredible home record as Atletico coach to just one defeat in 18 home Champions League games.

“I liked everything today. We pressed high, took advantage of spaces on the counter-attack and played with intensity for 90 minutes which is very difficult to do against one of the best teams in the world.

“It was one of the best performances in my time at Atletico Madrid.”

Victory takes Atletico top of Group D with six points from their opening two games. Bayern remain second on three points with FC Rostov and PSV Eindhoven on one each after a 2-2 draw in Russia.

Defeat was Bayern’s first since they last visited the Calderon in April.

“It was a difficult game, as we expected. Atletico played as we expected,” said Ancelotti.

“After the goal we tried to get back into the game, but we played too slowly and that is why we didn’t have a lot of chances.”

Bayern’s first serious attempt on goal was their best as Mueller smashed a volley goalwards on 14 minutes that was brilliantly beaten away by Oblak.

Not to be outdone, Bayern stopper Manuel Neuer produced a great save of his own as he got down low to his left to turn Carrasco’s first effort of the night to safety.

Torres missed a glorious chance to open the scoring when he somehow turned Koke’s corner against the post from point-blank range with the goal gaping.

However, Atletico finally went in front when Griezmann collected a loose ball and freed Carrasco on the left. The Belgian strode forward before unleashing a powerful effort in off the far post.

Bayern took a long time to muster a response as Ancelotti brought on Arjen Robben and the on-form Joshua Kimmich.

Neuer parried another powerful low effort from Carrasco to keep Bayern in the game midway through the second half.

The visitors finally began to threaten in the final 15 minutes as Robert Lewandowski’s glancing header flew inches wide of the far post.

Robben then drove a shot just wide from the edge of the box.

However, it was the hosts who had the best chance to extend their advantage when Arturo Vidal cynically chopped down Filipe Luis inside the area.

Griezmann stepped up to take it, but just as in their Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in May, he smashed his spot-kick against the bar to give Bayern a lifeline.

Ancelotti’s men had one final chance to rescue a point, but Robben’s header drifted harmlessly over as Atletico held on to secure another major European scalp under Simeone.

Kimmich shines as Bayern romp to 5-0 win over Rostov

September 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bayern Munich crushed Champions League newcomers Rostov 5-0 with two goals from youngster Joshua Kimmich on Tuesday to kick off their Group D campaign and set a competition record with their 13th consecutive home victory.

Football Soccer - Bayern Munich v FC Rostov - Champions League - Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany - 13/9/16 Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich celebrates with his team mate Arturo Vidal after scoring a goal. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

The 21-year-old Germany midfielder struck twice in the second half after striker Robert Lewandowski converted a 28th-minute penalty and Thomas Mueller added another goal on the stroke of halftime to kill off any chance of a Russian comeback.

Kimmich’s two goals in eight minutes confirmed his fine scoring form after he grabbed his first league goal last week having netted in Germany’s World Cup qualifier earlier this month. Juan Bernat swept home Bayern’s fifth in the 90th minute.

The Russians, making their first group stage appearance, defended well for the first 20 minutes but were eventually overrun by the Germans, who beat Manchester United’s previous record of 12 consecutive home victories in the competition.

Bayern, who gave new coach Carlo Ancelotti a winning start in the competition, next play Atletico Madrid, who beat them in last season’s semi-finals and then PSV Eindhoven in their group.

The Bavarians dominated possession from the start but the Russian newcomers were disciplined at the back.

Operating with five defenders, Rostov forced the hosts to pass the ball outside the box looking for gaps and made them wait 21 minutes before the first chance fell to Lewandowski.

The Pole was awarded a penalty minutes later, sending Soslan Dzhanaev the wrong way to put his team ahead.

The Rostov goalkeeper came to the rescue 11 minutes later, denying Bayern a second goal when he punched away a point blank header by Mats Hummels.

Dzhanaev was helpless, however, when birthday boy Mueller, who turned 27, charged into the box to connect perfectly with a David Alaba cross in first half stoppage time.

The Germans picked up where they left off after the break with Kimmich, who was picked to start ahead of Xabi Alonso, timing his run to perfection and tapping in Douglas Costa’s cutback to kill off the game early in the second half.

The diminutive youngster, who enjoyed a meteoric rise last season to earn a spot in Germany’s Euro 2016 team, then rose high to head in substitute Bernat’s cross on the hour.

The Spaniard then turned scorer, slotting home in the final minute to complete a dominant performance by the Germans, who are bidding for their sixth European Cup.

Red-hot Lewandowski fires Bayern past Schalke

September 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Robert Lewandowski and Joshua Kimmich struck late goals in Bayern Munich’s 2-0 win at Schalke in the Bundesliga on Friday as teenage Portugal star Renato Sanches made his debut for the Bavarian giants.

Robert

Dutch forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar rattled the crossbar for Schalke early in the second half as the hosts frustrated the reigning champions for much of the evening in Gelsenkirchen.

But Lewandowski struck his fourth goal in two games nine minutes from the end to put Bayern ahead, before setting up Kimmich in stoppage time to wrap up a second victory in as many matches for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

The Italian handed Sanches, 19, his first Bayern start following his return to fitness from a thigh injury initially sustained during Portugal’s triumphant Euro 2016 campaign.

Schalke coach Markus Weinzierl introduced two new faces of his own by fielding Ukrainian winger Yevhen Konoplyanka and Algeria midfielder Nabil Bentaleb after both joined the Royal Blues on loan last month.

Lewandowski scored a hat-trick in Bayern’s 6-0 demolition of Werder Bremen on the season-opening weekend, and the Poland striker missed an opportunity to add to his haul when he dragged wide from a Thomas Mueller cutback on 24 minutes.

But Schalke, beaten 1-0 by Eintracht Frankfurt a fortnight ago, showed plenty of promise and Manuel Neuer and David Alaba combined to deny Huntelaar shortly before the break after Konoplyanka skipped past Mats Hummels.

The Netherlands international went even closer on 56 minutes when Neuer produced a superb fingertip save to tip Huntelaar’s thunderous long-range effort onto the woodwork.

Lewandowski should have broken the deadlock on 73 minutes when Alaba’s cross evaded Mueller, with last year’s leading scorer then somehow spooning the ball over from point-blank range.

But he soon atoned for that glaring miss, taking Javi Martinez’s through ball in his stride and rifling a clinical finish beyond Ralf Fahrmann to end Schalke’s resistance.

With the hosts pressing for an equaliser, Bayern hit Schalke on the counterattack in the dying stages and Lewandowski played in Kimmich to tuck away his first goal in the German top flight.

On Saturday, Borussia Dortmund travel to promoted RB Leipzig, while Germany striker Mario Gomez is likely to make his Wolfsburg debut away to Cologne following his return to the Bundesliga after finishing as the top scorer in Turkey last season.

Borussia Moenchengladbach, who visit Manchester City in their Champions League opener next week, must first go to promoted Freiburg.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer named as Germany’s new football captain

September 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was on Thursday named as the new captain of world champions Germany following Bastian Schweinsteiger’s international retirement.

Neuer

“For me it is a great honour,” said Neuer after the German Football Association (DFB) announced his appointment on their website.

“It makes me proud to be captain of the team, but we all know that we need several players to lead on the pitch, if we are to succeed.

“The key things are already always discussed within ‘die Mannschaft’ and decided together.

“Of course, the captaincy has great symbolic significance.

“I am very pleased with the trust the coach has shown in me in this appointment.”

Having made his international debut in 2009, in a 7-2 win against the United Arab Emirates in Dubai, Neuer has kept 25 clean sheets in 71 of his Germany appearances.

He was between the posts when they won the 2014 World Cup title and was voted the best goalkeeper in the world in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The 30-year-old will wear the captain’s armband for Germany’s opening 2018 World Cup qualifier away to Norway in Oslo on Sunday.

Head coach Joachim Loew said he was in the luxurious position of having several candidates to choose from.

Neuer’s Bayern team-mates Jerome Boateng, Thomas Mueller and Mats Hummels were all touted as options by the German media.

“In the national team, we are in the fortunate position that we have several leading players who fit the format and a captain’s profile,” said Loew, who has been Germany’s boss for the last decade.

“For me, Manuel Neuer was the logical successor to Bastian Schweinsteiger.

“He brings everything to the table that I’d wish for in a captain.

“His sporting achievements are outstanding. Manuel is always there for the team, he is a team player and an absolute role model.

“He accepts responsibility, but is always calm and collected.”

Although he has been named as Schweinsteiger’s permanent replacement, the Oslo qualifier will not be the first time Neuer has captained his country.

He was skipper in five of Germany’s six matches at June’s Euro 2016 which Schweinsteiger had started on the bench after recovering from a knee injury.

Neuer has worn the captain’s armband in a total of 14 internationals, starting with Germany’s 4-2 defeat to Argentina in Duesseldorf in September 2014.

Lothar Matthaeus, who captained Germany to the 1990 World Cup title in Italy, says Neuer is the right man for the job.

“He has the personality, the demeanour and the reputation, within the team, to make a really good captain,” said the 55-year-old Matthaeus, Germany’s most capped player.

A reader poll in Germany’s top daily newspaper Bild made Bayern defender Jerome Boateng the people’s choice, but the centre-back only narrowly won the survey with 37 percent, compared with 34 for Neuer.

Lewandowski hat-trick as Bayern rout Bremen in season opener

August 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Robert Lewandowski claimed a hat-trick as defending champions Bayern Munich brushed Werder Bremen aside with a 6-0 win in Friday’s opening match of the new German league season.

Lewandowski

Lewandowski, the Bundesliga’s top-scorer last season with 30 goals, could have finished with five as Bayern ran riot.

“I’m just happy I scored and that we got the win,” Lewandowski told broadcaster ARD and revealed he finished the game with a hole in his goal-scoring right boot.

After Xabi Alonso scored the first goal of the 2016/17 campaign at Munich’s Allianz Arena, Lewandowski netted either side of the break before captain Philipp Lahm added a fourth.

It was no more than shooting practice for Bayern by the time Franck Ribery fired home, with Lewandowski then converting a penalty to claim his third and Munich’s sixth.

Having also hammered Hamburg 5-0 in last season’s opening game, this was another emphatic win as Bayern look to win a fifth Bundesliga title in a row.

It finished 2-0 at the break, but it could have been at least double that as Lewandowski and then Thomas Mueller both hit the woodwork in the opening 45 minutes.

Bayern won last season’s German league title by 10 points, making history with a fourth straight Bundesliga title.

They picked up under new coach Carlo Ancelotti where they left off under Pep Guardiola, who left in May to coach Manchester City, with long periods of possession.

“I am very happy. That was a very good performance from my team,” said Ancelotti after his first Bundesliga game.

“We got off to a good start and took control of the game early on.”

Bayern’s win came with Germany defenders Jerome Boateng and Holger Badstuber, plus Dutch winger Arjen Robben all recovering from injury.

New signing Renato Sanches from Benfica, a Euro 2016 winner with Portugal, started on the bench.

Germany defender Mats Hummels, their other new arrival from Borussia Dortmund, partnered Javi Martinez at centre-back.

The defending champions needed just nine minutes to take a spectacular lead.

Alonso’s volley from just outside the area found the top right-hand corner and flew past Bremen goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald.

The hosts doubled their lead just four minutes later.

Ribery’s long-range pass down the left put Lewandowski in behind the defence and the Poland hot-shot tucked his shot past Wiedwald from the tightest of angles.

He could have claimed a first-half hat-trick.

Muller’s long-range shot slammed off the post, then Lewandowski hit the crossbar and had a shot saved before the break.

The pair combined for Bayern’s third goal, which arrived just 39 seconds into the second-half.

Mueller’s curling cross was met at the far post by Lewandowski for his second on 46 minutes.

Bremen’s last win over Bayern in Munich was back in 2008 and they were barely in it as Bavarians enjoyed around 70 percent possession.

Lahm grabbed Bayern’s second when he converted Mueller’s final pass before Ribery blasted home their fifth with the Frenchman unmarked in the area.

Rafinha came on for Lahm and when the Brazil defender was fouled in the area, Lewandowski drilled home the resulting penalty on 77 minutes.

It was his second hat-trick in exactly a week after he netted three in Bayern’s 5-0 romp at Carl Zeiss Jena in the first round of the German Cup last Friday.

Dortmund in talks with Bayern over Goetze return – report

July 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Borussia Dortmund have started transfer talks with Bayern Munich over attacking midfielder Mario Goetze’s possible return to Westfalenstadion, according to a media report.

Mario Gotze has struggled to break into the Bayern team

Mario Gotze has struggled to break into the Bayern team

Goetze won two Bundesliga titles with Dortmund before joining Bayern in 2013 but failed to secure a starting place in three seasons under coach Pep Guardiola, who has since joined Premier League side Manchester City.

The 24-year-old has also been linked in British media with a move to former Dortmund boss Juergen Klopp at Liverpool.

Goetze winning goal

Goetze winning goal

 

“I can confirm that talks with Borussia Dortmund have taken place. There have also been talks with his agent, but the deal is not done just yet. Both clubs will have to reach an agreement over a transfer fee first,” Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told Sport1.

The Germany international scored three goals in 14 Bundesliga appearances last season having only returned to fitness in February following a five-month injury break after suffering an adductor muscle injury in October.

“Goetze has been at Bayern for three years and it did not work out for him. I am not surprised that Goetze wants to leave. He is 24 years old and needs to play regularly,” Rummenigge added.

Goetze, who scored the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final, played four times for Germany at the European Championship in France, where they were eliminated by the hosts in the semi-finals.

Guardiola, Mourinho and Ancelotti primed for new challenges

July 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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The fat lady may be clearing her throat at Euro 2016 but the three tenors of the coaching world Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are due for the first rehearsals with their new club sides.

Mourinho

All three are renowned not only for their coaching ability — they have all won multiple Champions Leagues — but also their vastly different characters.

For Manchester City’s Guardiola and Manchester United’s Mourinho it sometimes borders on the cult of personality.

Ancelotti will not have to put up with Mourinho’s penchant for barbed comments as he has replaced Guardiola in the Bayern Munich hotseat.

One remark that Mourinho will unable to drag back out is labelling Claudio Ranieri a “loser” — the Italian silenced that one by guiding Leicester City to a shock Premier League title last term.

However, the football world can expect sparks to fly between Mourinho and Guardiola, especially now they are both in the same city.

A bitter rivalry between the two already exists from their time in Spain when Mourinho’s Madrid ended Guardiola’s glorious reign at Barcelona by winning La Liga in 2012.

Many will hope the Mourinho who pitches up at United will not be the highly strung out-of-sorts figure who left Chelsea under a cloud last term.

Usually Mourinho’s early days at a club are more civil and respectful, even if that often turns out to be a false dawn.

The 53-year-old Mourinho shrugs off the criticism of his combative nature designed to get under the skin of his rivals on the touchline.

Unsurprisingly, one of the Portuguese’s greatest admirers is Alex Ferguson, no stranger himself to the mind games of Premier League management.

“I look at Jose and I see myself reflected in many of the things he does,” said Ferguson.

“We’re only human. We can’t hide our emotions. They’re always there, they’re part of who we are, of our character.”

While Mourinho lets his emotions bubble to the surface, 45-year-old Guardiola seems self-contained and almost cold in his press conferences, only once letting the mask slip when Mourinho had provoked him one too many times.

This coldness appears to be borne out by the man who replaced him at Barcelona and his former assistant Tito Vilanova’s testament about when he was undergoing treatment for cancer in New York, where Guardiola had gone on sabbatical.

“He visited me once in New York when I’d just arrived, but during my recovery from the operation… I was there for two months and I didn’t see him,” Vilanova said in July 2013, nine months before he died.

Ancelotti engenders respect and popularity wherever he has gone on a European tour of the continent’s biggest clubs taking in AC Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

At Madrid the 57-year-old succeeded Mourinho and, much to the chagrin of the latter, coached them to their long-awaited 10th European Cup trophy. A feat Mourinho was hired to achieve, but failed to deliver in his three years in the Spanish capital.

Mourinho’s spell at Real turned sour with the players — he dropped iconic goalkeeper Iker Casillas — and even when Real’s form dipped in Ancelotti’s second season in Madrid a star-studded squad made clear their preference for the Italian.

“I think we are a better team now than under Mourinho in all aspects of the game. I think this is clear to see for all — for both fans and journalists,” said Real defender Sergio Ramos.

“I don’t like this injustice, where one coach gets all the credit, whereas the other doesn’t get recognition.

“I go by what I have experienced, not by what I have been told. It is enough to look at what he has won here and how long it took.”

Ancelotti, like Guardiola a Champions League winner as a player and as a coach, has become phlegmatic about the insecurities of the job.

“My ass is earthquake-proof,” he told The Financial Times in 2014, summing up how his fear of the sack has diminished over the years.

Atletico oust Bayern to reach Champions League final

May 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Atletico Madrid reached the Champions League final on away goals on Tuesday after a 2-1 defeat at Bayern Munich, in which both sides missed a penalty, with the exhilarating tie finishing 2-2 on aggregate.

Britain Football Soccer - Bayern Munich v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg - Allianz Arena, Munich - 3/5/16 Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring the first goal for Atletico Madrid with Koke Reuters / Michaela Rehle Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

Atletico will play in the showpiece match for the second time in three seasons against either city rivals Real Madrid, who beat them in the 2014 final, or Manchester City, with the second semi-final scheduled for the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Bayern’s exit ended their hopes of claiming a treble with Atletico going through to the May 28 final at the San Siro in Milan after winning the first leg 1-0 last week.

The Bavarians went ahead with a Xabi Alonso free kick just past the half-hour and could have scored again three minutes later but Thomas Mueller’s penalty was saved by Jan Oblak.

Atletico levelled through Frenchman Antoine Griezmann’s seventh goal of this season’s competition in the 54th, meaning Bayern would need at least two more goals to progress.

Bayern’s Poland striker Robert Lewandowski set up a dramatic finale with his 74th minute goal before Atletico’s Fernando Torres had an 85th minute spot kick saved by Manuel Neuer.

But it made no difference in the end as Bayern suffered a third straight elimination by a Spanish team at this stage in their three seasons under Pep Guardiola.

“They were better, but we scored an away goal, which was important. We need to keep grounded and first of all think of the Liga before the final,” said Griezmann, whose side are level on points with leaders Barcelona in the Spanish title race.

“We’re delighted. It was difficult, a really hard game, we had a great opponent in front of us and we had to both defend and try to score. That’s what we did,” he added.

Guardiola, in his final Champions League home game at Bayern before his move to Manchester City for next season, started with defender Jerome Boateng, back from a three-month injury break on Saturday, and Franck Ribery, himself back from injury.

With a newly-discovered intensity, the Bavarians were dominant in the first half, successfully navigating through the Spaniards’ high pressing game and grabbing their first chance with a Lewandowski header in the 12th minute.

“We are a bit lost for words,” said Neuer. “We played great football today, did everything we set out to do but it is bitter not to be travelling to Milan for the final.”

Atletico keeper Oblak was kept busy in the first half, with the tables turned and Bayern doing the pressing — having 12 shots compared to Atletico’s two by the half hour.

Alonso finally got the hosts a deserved lead in the 31st minute, his low free kick clipping Atletico’s Jose Maria Gimenez to cancel out Atletico’s first-leg advantage.

Bayern pushed for a second goal and thought they would have it when Javi Martinez was brought down by Gimenez in the box to earn a penalty three minutes later.

But Oblak saved Mueller’s spot kick and Atletico stunned the home crowd after the break when Griezmann linked up with Torres and charged through to beat Neuer with a fine finish.

With Bayern now on the backfoot and needing at least two more goals to advance, Atletico grew bolder and Juanfran’s shot on the hour sailed narrowly wide.

Lewandowski put Bayern back in front on the night with a close-range header to spark a dramatic finale but they could not find another goal and their Champions League hopes were over.

Guardiola out to end semi-final misery against Atletico

May 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bayern Munich are desperate to avoid losing a third consecutive Champions League semi-final to Spanish opponents when they host Atletico Madrid on Tuesday but coach Pep Guardiola has his work cut out to end his time in Germany on a high.

Football Soccer - Bayern Munich v Borussia Moenchengladbach - German Bundesliga - Allianz-Arena, Munich, Germany 30/04/16 - Bayern Munich's coach Pep Guardiola reacts during the match. REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH

Guardiola inherited the reigning European champions when he joined Bayern in 2013, but has endured successive semi-final failures since, falling to Real Madrid in 2014 and to his former club Barcelona last season.

His hopes of reaching a first Champions League final sincehis Barcelona side beat Manchester United 3-1 in 2011 were dented after Saul Niguez’s brilliant solo goal gave Atletico a 1-0 first-leg victory.

With Guardiola leaving for Manchester City at the season’s end, this is his last chance to conquer Europe with Bayern, who won the first of their five European Cups by defeating Atletico in the 1974 final.

“It’s not over yet, we still have a chance,” Guardiola told reporters. “If we lose it, you can kill me, but we still have a chance.”

Atletico coach Diego Simeone also believes the tie is open.

“Playing in Munich means they’ll have their fans supporting them, but we have the opportunity to score an away goal.”

“We need to be on fire on Tuesday,” said Thomas Mueller, who shone as Bayern were held 1-1 by Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday and were consequently made to wait for their fourth consecutive Bundesliga title.

Mueller’s return was one of eight changes from the Atletico match made by Bayern, who were boosted by the return of Jerome Boateng, who had not featured since January.

Arjen Robben, sidelined for two months with a hamstring injury, says that he is “fighting” to return this season but will miss out, while Guardiola confirmed he does not know whether Franck Ribery will recover from a back complaint.

“We’ll do everything we can to have Frank back,” said Guardiola, who is also without defender Holger Badstuber.

While Bayern were unconvincing on Saturday, Diego Simeone’s Atletico are finishing strongly in Spain, having won their last six league games and keeping four consecutive clean sheets.

They are level on points with La Liga leaders Barcelona after defeating Rayo Vallecano 1-0 on Saturday.

“It’ll be a close game like today’s match,” said Simeone after the Rayo game. “We’ll see who makes the most of their chances.”

Influential central defender Diego Godin returns from a hamstring injury, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco is also available and Tiago Mendes travels despite not yet being passed fit to play.

Bayern made to wait for historic fourth consecutive title

May 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich must wait to have their historic fourth consecutive Bundesliga title confirmed after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday.

Mueller

The champagne had to be put back on ice at the Allianz Arena after Thomas Mueller’s first-half header for Bayern was cancelled out by Andre Hahn’s superb second-half strike for Gladbach.

Second-placed Borussia Dortmund romped to a 5-1 win at home against Wolfsburg to trim Bayern’s lead at the top to five points with two games left.

Bayern are away to mid-table Ingolstadt next Saturday, then host relegated Hanover on the final day of the season in a fortnight.

The draw with Gladbach comes three days before Tuesday’s crunch Champions League home semi-final against Atletico Madrid with Bayern having lost the first leg 1-0 away last Wednesday.

“Of course, we had wanted to win today, for our fans and for ourselves,” said Guardiola.

“We need just a point now, a draw, or a win to secure the title.

“But now there’s time to concentrate on Atletico Madrid, it will be a different game on Tuesday. We must play better.”

Bayern were punished for sitting back after Mueller’s sixth-minute headed opener.

Gladbach, one of only two clubs to beat Bayern in the German league this season, hit back when Hahn slotted home on 72 minutes having gone close just moments before.

A superb pass from Lars Stindl put Hahn in behind the Bayern defence and he wrong-footed Medhi Benatia before firing his shot past Manuel Neuer.

There was some good news for Bayern as Jerome Boateng started his first game since January.

The Germany defender is now in line to face Diego Simeone’s Atletico with a place in the Champions League final on May 28 at stake.

In Dortmund, Borussia hammered Wolfsburg with Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa scoring their first and creating their second before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came off the bench to score twice.

The Gabon striker now has 25 league goals this season, leaving him two short ofBayern’s Robert Lewandowski.

Dortmund took the lead when Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s bullet pass was deflected home by Kagawa, who then set up Ramos to leave Dortmund 2-0 up inside nine minutes.

Marco Reus grabbed their third by chipping home with an hour gone.

Aubameyang replaced Ramos on 69 minutes and scored his first just eight minutes later when Mkhitaryan’s pass found him unmarked to header home, then netted a second header just a minute later before Wolfsburg’s Andre Schuerrle scored a consolation.

Later, Bayer Leverkusen confirmed their direct place in the Champions League next season with a 2-1 win over Hertha Berlin to guarantee third place.

Leverkusen raced into a 2-0 lead at the BayArena with goals by Julian Brandt and Lars Bender before Vedad Ibisevic pulled a goal back for Berlin with 16 minutes gone.

Fifth-placed Hertha must now battle Borussia Moenchengladbach, Schalke and Mainz for fourth spot which carries a place in the Champions League’s play-offs.

At the other end of the table, Hanover 96’s relegation was confirmed by their 3-1 defeat to Schalke.

Eintracht Frankfurt boosted their survival hopes with a 2-1 win at Darmstadt to go 16th, which carries a two-legged promotion/relegation play-off at the end of the season.

But 17th-placed Werder Bremen can push Frankfurt back down the table if they beat VfB Stuttgart, who are 15th, at home on Monday in a crunch relegation battle.

Mid-table Hamburg played out a goalless draw at home to Mainz, who stay seventh and on course for a Europa League place.

Hoffenheim looked to have escaped relegation under 28-year-old coach Julian Nagelsmann, the youngest in the Bundesliga’s history, and they are four points from the drop zone, after their 2-1 win at home to Ingolstadt.

Saul stunner gives Atletico advantage over Bayern

April 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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A breathtaking individual goal from Saul Niguez put Atletico Madrid in the box seat in their Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich with a 1-0 victory in a tense first leg on Wednesday.

Football Soccer - Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Semi Final First Leg - Vicente Calderon Stadium - 27/4/16 Saul Niguez celebrates with Koke after scoring the first goal for Atletico Madrid Reuters / Sergio Perez Livepic

The midfielder magically weaved his way through the Bayern defence and produced a low finish that went in off the post to put the home side in front after 11 minutes.

Diego’s Simeone’s superbly-drilled outfit then snuffed out Bayern’s threat and even came close to doubling their lead late on when Fernando Torres’s shot struck the post.

“It was a great game, everyone believed in their work. We put in a huge effort,” said Simeone, whose Atletico side have frequently been a scourge of more-fancied opponents with their disciplined rearguard frustrating Barcelona in the last round.

While Bayern’s David Alaba also hit the woodwork with a thumping drive, the result left Pep Guardiola’s side facing a huge task in next week’s return leg in Munich to avoid a third successive semi-final exit.

“I’m not happy with how we played,” said Guardiola, who is leaving Bayern in the close-season to join Manchester City.

“We started badly. The goal was a consequence of our slow play. We didn’t win even one battle.”

Atletico made an intense start in the first competitive meeting between the two sides since Bayern beat the Spaniards 4-0 in the 1974 European Cup final replay.

Saul drove them in front with a sensational run from the right, snaking inside and beating three players before fending off two more and bending the ball in off the far post with a flick of his left boot.

Bayern nearly equalised moments later when Arturo Vidal’s looping header beat Atletico keeper Jan Oblak, but Jose Gimenez rose to head the ball off the line.

Simeone’s side might have added another before the break when Antoine Griezmann bore down on goal before the Frenchman’s near-post shot was kicked away by Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer.

Bayern were more incisive in the second half. Alaba smashed the underside of the crossbar from 30 metres, and then Javi Martinez escaped his marker at a corner but could only glance the ball into the hands of Oblak.

Atletico soon regained control, leaving Bayern to try their luck from distance. Douglas Costa blasted over from 30 metres, and Vidal tried to surprise Oblak from range, but the Slovenian got across in time to parry.

Atletico almost doubled their lead with their only real chance of the second half.

Torres stormed into the box, took on a defender and tried to hook the ball into the far corner, hitting the post before Koke’s effort on the rebound was caught by Neuer.

The winners of the tie will face either Real Madrid or Manchester City in the final on May 28.

Guardiola in awe of Atletico’s ability to ‘win, win, win’

April 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola praised his Atletico Madrid counterpart Diego Simeone before Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final, first leg for being able to compete with Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Football Soccer - Bayern Munich training - Munich, Germany - 26/04/16. Bayern Munich's coach Pep Guardiola arrives for training prior to UEFA Champions League semi-final match against Atletico Madrid. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

Simeone led Atletico to a first La Liga title for 18 years in 2014, after winning the Europa League and King’s Cup in preceding seasons, and they are now in second place, level on points with Barca and a point above Real with three games left.

They also knocked Guardiola’s former club Barcelona, the Champions League favourites and holders, out of this season’s competition in the quarter-finals.

“The best title Atletico have achieved is that they are compared with Barcelona and Madrid, that’s Simeone’s greatest achievement,” Guardiola told a news conference on Tuesday.

“What they show is their consistency, that’s the most difficult thing, to win, win win. Normally only big teams do that, play three different competitions, game after game and win, win, win.

“The most difficult thing in sport is to win year on year. Anyone can win one year but to keep themselves at the top, that’s impressive.”

Guardiola’s Bayern also lost in the 2014 semis to eventual winners Real Madrid and the clash with Atletico is his last chance of reaching the Champions League final with the club before he takes charge at Manchester City for next season.

But the Spaniard said he was proud of his record in Germany, where he is on course to win a third straight Bundesliga title.

“I see it as good. In three years we’ve got to three semis. I know that people say if I don’t win the Champions League my work won’t be complete, but I’ve been very lucky to have experienced what I have in Germany,” added Guardiola.

“I think I’m a better coach, a better guy, more relaxed.”

While Bayern have their eyes on a sixth European Cup, the first of which came against Atletico in 1974, the Spaniards are looking for their maiden triumph in Europe’s elite competition, also losing in the 2014 final, to Real Madrid.

“Atleti know what we’re playing for tomorrow, not just to get to the final, we’re playing for a chance to enter the club’s history and the fans will respond to this,” said captain Gabi.

Fernando Torres added: “The club’s has its colours and values. What we try to do on the pitch is transmit them. We’re convinced that if you believe, you can and we are going to try and do it.”

Lewandowski double puts Bayern 10 points clear

April 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bayern Munich are ten points clear, and on the verge of an historic fourth straight Bundesliga title, after Robert Lewandowski netted twice in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Schalke.

Lewandowski

With second-placed Borussia Dortmund hosting bogey side Hamburg on Sunday, Pep Guardiola’s Bayern took the chance to extend their lead at Munich’s Allianz Arena.

With four league games left and depending on other results, Bayern could be confirmed as the first club to win four straight German league titles when they host Borussia Moechengladbach in a fortnight.

Guardiola can sign off his three years in Munich with the treble.

Bayern face Bremen in the German Cup semi-finals on Tuesday and have drawn Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

After a disjointed first-half display in Munich, Bayern went up a gear after the break.

Arturo Vidal’s header was chested down by Lewandowski, who turned and hit the back of the net on 54 minutes.

The Poland hot-shot headed home his 27th league goal of the season on 65 minutes to leave him as the Bundesliga’s top scorer, four ahead of Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Vidal added Bayern’s third when he tapped home after some superb individual skills from Franck Ribery who jinxed his way through the Schalke defence before providing the final pass.

Earlier, Bayer Leverkusen climbed to third, and are on course for a direct Champions League place next season, after their 3-0 win over strugglers Eintracht Frankfurt.

Kevin Kampl gave Bayer the lead on 70 minutes, just 43 seconds after coming off the bench for Leverkusen’s top scorer, Javier Hernandez, who limped off after pulling up with an injury.

Julian Brandt and Germany winger Karim Bellarabi then added further goals to leave Frankfurt second from bottom.

Leverkusen claim third from Hertha Berlin, who dropped one place after their 2-1 defeat at Hoffenheim.

Hertha, who are bidding for a first Champions League place since the 1999/2000 season, are winless in their last three games.

Hoffenheim earned the win when Mark Uth headed home at the far post to move his side up to 13th — three points above the relegation places.

Four days after their Champions League quarter-final exit at the hands of Real Madrid, Wolfsburg lost again when they went down 3-2 at relegation-threatened Werder Bremen.

Having lost 3-0 in Madrid, Wolfsburg were well beaten as Claudio Pizarro scored his 102nd goal for Bremen, to become the club’s all-time top scorer, by converting a first-half penalty.

Wolfsburg’s France midfielder Josuha Guilavogui equalised before the break, but Bremen netted goals from Fin Bartels and Mali midfielder Sambou Yatabare.

Wolfsburg’s director of sport Klaus Allofs was dismissed to the stands early in the second half after arguing with the fourth official.

The visitors pulled a late goal back when Dutch striker Bas Dost powered a header home, but Wolfsburg stay eighth.

Despite the win, Bremen are in the relegation play-off place, but just three points from 11th place as things remain tight at the bottom.

Augsburg stayed just above the relegation places with a 1-0 win at home to VfB Stuttgart.

Mid-table Darmstadt enjoyed a 2-0 win over Ingolstadt, while on Friday bottom side Hanover 96 enjoyed a 2-0 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach, but remain 12 points from safety.

Bayern ready to take next step in Europe with Guardiola

April 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola is hoping his team can take the next step in the Champions League after booking a third consecutive semi-final spot under the Spaniard following Wednesday’s 3-2 aggregate win over Benfica.

Football Soccer - VfB Stuttgart v Bayern Munich - German Bundesliga - Mercedes-Benz Arena, Stuttgart, Germany 09/04/16 Bayern Munich's coach Pep Guardiola during the match. REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH

Bayern have now made it to the semi-finals of Europe’s top club competition in five straight seasons but have not gone beyond that stage since Guardiola took over in 2013 following the Germans’ treble-winning season under his predecessor Jupp Heynckes.

Guardiola will be leaving to join Manchester City at the end of the season and is feeling the mounting pressure of delivering the European trophy as his team eye another treble.

“We are now where we have been in the past two seasons,” Guardiola said. “We are in the last four of the Champions League and the German Cup. I hope this time we can take that extra step.”

Bayern, also closing in on a record-breaking fourth consecutive Bundesliga title with a seven-point advantage and five games left, are no strangers to European success, having won the Champions League in 2013 for their fifth European crown.

They also reached the final in 2010 and 2012 but have failed to do so under Guardiola, who won 14 titles including the Champions League in his four years at Barcelona.

“If you are in the last four in Europe then you definitely want more,” said Bayern captain Philipp Lahm, who will be Germany’s all-time leader in Champions League appearances if he makes his 104th match in the competition next month.

“A fifth semi-final appearance in a row is unbelievable. Performance-wise we are on a very good level but are not done yet. We do not have any title in the bag yet but it looks good in all three competitions.”

Despite their run to the semi-finals where they will be drawn against Real Madrid, city rivals Atletico or Guardiola’s future club City, Bayern have looked less dominant in recent weeks.

Goals are a bit harder to come by while their defence is not as waterproof as earlier in the campaign.

They let in just three goals in their six group stage matches but have conceded double that amount in the two knockout rounds since then.

“Nothing is gifted to you,” said Bayern sports director Matthias Sammer. “Maybe we have been a bit away from our top level but we have a winner mentality. The team proved that against Benfica.”

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