London, Reuters—Bayern Munich kept alive their Champions League title defence by suppressing a resilient Manchester United to reach the semi-finals on Wednesday, while the power shift continued in Spain as Atletico Madrid edged past La Liga rivals Barcelona.
Bayern Munich cruise through
A schoolboy lapse in concentration and a bad miss by Wayne Rooney wrecked Manchester United’s hopes of causing a huge Champions League upset against holders Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.
When United went ahead in the quarter-final second leg with a spectacular Patrice Evra strike after 57 minutes it seemed an improbable victory was possible but they seemed to be still celebrating when Mario Mandzukic headed the equaliser 22 seconds after the re-start.
Even then Rooney missed a gilt-edged chance but there was no way back after that as Bayern eased away to a 3-1 win with Thomas Mueller and the influential Arjen Robben both on target for the hosts who were never totally convincing.
Bayern’s 4-2 aggregate win kept them on course for a second successive treble and all but put an end to Manchester United’s miserable first season under David Moyes.
United are extremely unlikely to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season and winning the Champions League represented their only realistic hope of qualifying for next season’s competition.
“I thought the players did a great job tonight, the only crime was conceding a goal after we scored, 30 seconds afterwards,” Moyes, who has experienced a difficult time at Old Trafford since succeeding Alex Ferguson, told reporters.
“It’s the sort of thing you learn as a schoolboy. We concentrated so fabulously well throughout the game, the players did their jobs, their positioning and awareness (was good), and to give up that goal at that moment was really disappointing.”
Missing the suspended Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez in midfielder, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola fielded Toni Kroos, usually a creative player, as a holding midfielder.
As in the first leg at Old Trafford that ended 1-1, Bayern totally dominated possession in the first half although they lacked fluency and struggled to create any real openings against a well-drilled United side who were always in the game.
Robben was Bayern’s chief threat, getting into several promising positions after cutting inside on to his left foot in familiar fashion but his efforts were either blocked by defenders or flashed wide.
United had one opening when Rooney got clear of the Bayern defence but he dithered and failed to notice Shinji Kagawa in an unmarked position as the chance went begging.
The visitors went ahead in remarkable fashion when Antonio Valencia burst down the right and, although his cross went behind United’s forwards, the lurking Evra lashed home a net-bursting effort from the edge of the area on the half-volley.
United had also taken the lead in the first leg, holding it for nine minutes, but this time they could not even keep their noses in front for a minute as Mandzukic got in front of Evra to score with a diving header after a Ribery cross from the left.
That opened the game up completely and Rooney should have put United back in front but completely scuffed his shot with only Manuel Neuer to beat from 12 metres after Danny Wellbeck rolled the ball invitingly to him.
“I felt he was concerned he hadn’t trained all week and had taken an injection, and I felt he had trouble striking the ball on occasions,” Moyes said of Rooney who had been troubled by a sore toe in the run-up to the game.
United were not given a second chance.
Mueller put Bayern in front when he turned in another Robben cross from close range.
Robben then ensured there would be no nervous finale for Bayern when he collected a ball on the right and danced his way across the edge of the penalty area past two defenders before squeezing in a shot with took a deflection off of Nemanja Vidic.
“I knew it would be difficult. It’s not easy to play against eight players in the box and we decided to try to create a pass in the middle,” said Guardiola.
“They defended the crosses well, but at the end, after 1-1 we played much better and we deserved to be in the semi-final.”
Athletico Madrid secure shock victory
Atletico Madrid tamed Lionel Messi and Neymar to send La Liga rivals Barcelona crashing out of the Champions League after Koke’s early goal secured a shock 2-1 aggregate success at the Calderon on Wednesday.
After last week’s quarter-final, first leg in Barcelona ended 1-1, Atletico’s stunning 1-0 victory at an electric Calderon stadium was the latest twist in a fairytale season for Madrid’s second club and their inspirational coach and former player Diego Simeone.
Simeone’s fired-up troops blew Barca away in the opening 20 minutes and after midfielder Koke volleyed in from close range in the fifth minute former Barca forward David Villa twice rattled the crossbar.
After surviving the early barrage, Barca showed more intensity and had their chances in the second half as the home side wilted.
But with Simeone willing them on from his technical area and whipping up the delirious fans in the stands, Atletico held out to deny Barca a record-extending seventh consecutive appearance in the last four and claim a berth in the last four of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in 40 years.
“The work of the team across both legs has been spectacular,” Koke told Spanish TV broadcaster Canal Plus.
“We ran a huge amount, we played the two games in the way we wanted and I think we were the deserved winners,” added the Spain international.
“With these fans behind us it is very hard for us to lose a match here.”
Eliminating the Catalan giants, whose annual earnings of more than 500 million euros are almost five times those of their Madrid rivals, was an incredible achievement and they join neighbours Real Madrid, Chelsea and holders Bayern Munich in Friday’s draw for the last four.
They can twist the knife deeper by holding on to their narrow lead over second-placed Barca in La Liga and preventing them securing them a fifth domestic league title in six years.
They are a point clear with six games left and closing in on a first la Liga triumph since a team featuring Simeone as a combative midfielder won the title in 1996.
Barca, whose talisman Lionel Messi barely featured on a stage where he has so often excelled, were left wondering how they failed to turn their second-half dominance into at least the one goal that would have taken the game to extra time.
“We had the game within our grasp,” Barca midfielder Xavi told Canal Plus.
“We had four or five very clear chances that normally we would put away.
“They made the most of those first 15 to 20 minutes when they played with a lot of intensity and scored the goal.
“After that we stepped up to the challenge and deserved at least a draw.
“We played two good games and had our chances in both legs but it slipped through our fingers.”
Having already lost playmaker Arda Turan to a groin problem, there was more bad news for Atletico before kickoff when top scorer Diego Costa, who strained a thigh muscle in the first leg, failed to make the squad.
Barca seemed to be settling into their usual dominant rhythm in the opening minutes on a warm night in the Spanish capital but were rocked back when Costa’s replacement Adrian burst clear in the fifth minute in a typical Atletico counter-attack.
His initial shot cannoned off the crossbar and when Villa clipped the ball back into the middle he nodded it across goal for Koke to volley in at the far post.
Atletico had the bit between their teeth and Barca suddenly went to pieces as Villa was twice allowed space in the area and twice saw his shots come back off the frame of the goal.
The game settled down after the frantic opening 20 minutes and Barca had a good chance to equalise when Messi, who had earlier headed narrowly wide, missed the target after brilliant work from Neymar on the left.
Barca, who had played Atletico four times this season with all four games ending in draws, began the second half strongly and immediately had Atletico on the back foot.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saved brilliantly at Neymar’s feet in the 49th minute and Atletico somehow scrambled the ball away when it seemed easier for Xavi to score.
Xavi should have done better with a free header from a Daniel Alves cross on the hour, while five minutes later at the other end substitute Diego tested Jose Manuel Pinto with an angled strike.
Atletico captain Gabi had a chance to put the game beyond Barca when he raced clear in the 70th minute but Pinto was able to save his weak effort.
Neymar’s diving header drifted just wide of the post 12 minutes from time before Pinto denied substitute Cristian Rodriguez in a one-on-one at the death.
The final whistle prompted the kind of wild celebrations rarely seen at Atletico’s stadium next to the Manzanares river and the home players stayed on the pitch soaking up the applause of both sets of fans long after the end.
“There is a lot of joy at having got through a tie against a great opponent with a long history of success, above all in the last decade,” a beaming Simeone told Canal Plus.
“We are calm in the knowledge that this is not over yet and now we need to recuperate for a tough game on Sunday” against Getafe in La Liga, he added.