We started in that sluggish European mode we’re so fond of with a formation that saw Freddie looking very out of place up front and Henry getting little or no service all night. It took all of four minutes for Bayern to take the lead when a big hoof upfield from Kahn saw Kolo make a complete pigs ear of his header. The ball fell to Pizarro who gleefully lashed it low past Lehmann who had little or no chance. Essentially we spend the remainder of the first half working our way back into the match. After Demichelis axed Edu for a yellow card I turned off the ITV commentary as the pure bollocks they were spouting was annoying me even more than our inability to make inroads into the match.
Edu looked lost, Freddie looked lost and Thierry had that look on his face, the one he gets when the service is poor. We were not fluid and the game was a stop-start affair with referee Neilson not helping to keep the game going by pulling back quick free kicks. Vieira was the most fouled player on the pitch but this was allowed to go on all match. The best stuff was coming from Clichy, who didn’t look out of place although when he broke forward we badly missed the covering expertise of Gilberto, just as we missed Dennis badly throughout this game. Reyes can’t defend and Cygan is often caught out when he has to cover a full back so our left side was a problem.
Poor final balls were the order of the day and apart from a give and go from Freddie we lacked penetration. Reyes picked up a harsh yellow card when Sagnol made a complete meal of an attempted tackle. Lauren set up Henry who’s cross in was good or would have been if anyone was on the end of it. We did however work our way slowly back into the game. Flamini replaced Edu so obviously he hadn’t quite got himself fully fit, which might just explain his total anonymity. Bob was also missing from proceedings and it seemed fairly obvious that Freddie can’t cut the mustard with his back to goal. Nielsen inexplicably stopped one great spell of possession for an Arsenal free kick well off the ball. We were in possession and moving the ball really well when this prat stopped our best passing move of the match dead in its tracks. He didn’t even book anyone so what the feck was that all about?
Henry was pulled up for a very marginal offside. There was good forward play down our left and we almost scored when Gael cut inside and hit a decent shot with his right peg towards the far post. This was deflected past the near post with Kahn beaten for a corner. The first half just petered out. Munich looked less than impressive and we’d got back into the game, but for all our quality midfield passing we lacked penetration in the final third. Sterile is the word I underlined in my notes. Tedious would have been an alternative and I have to admit to being marginally tempted to switch over channels and see if the Real Madrid-Juve game was any better.
We started the second half really brightly but a great move from Pires to Henry, to Reyes was wasted when Jose shot into the side netting from a narrow angle when Freddie was in perfect position for a ball to be slid across the face of goal. We were positive and applying good pressure at this point. Another break from Reyes to Pires was cut back to a black shirt and the cover remained good for the Germans, I say Germans but I think there were only two of them on the pitch. Freddie had a shot on the run that was easy for Kahn but we still lacked a killer move. At the other end a rare break saw Roberto hit a great ball to Makaay that Lehmann saved well at the expense of a corner. From the corner Salihamidzic had a flicked header at the near post that went into the side netting. Bouldie would have laughed at such naïve defending, or more probably cried.
We had quite a few nearly balls but it just wasn’t happening for Henry. Scholl replaced Roberto who I felt had done well. Almost immediately a ball in from from a free kick on the right justified his substitution because it was perfectly met by Pizarro, who having totally lost Toure his marker, headed home to give Jens no chance. 2-0 and heads dropped a bit. Seven minutes later Fring, worked in by Pizarro found Lehmann badly placed for the cross, which he failed to tip clear sufficiently. It fell to Salihamidzic for an easy chance to make it 3-0. Pizarro was replaced by another striker, a Peruvian by the name of Guerrero. I meantime was screaming at the box for Le Boss to either get Robin on or change our formation.
There was a missed sitter from Frings that could have made it four before Henry manged to win a free kick on the edge of their box. After a debate about who should take it Reyes finally did, but it didn’t dip over the wall enough and went over Kahn’s bar. I suspect neither player really fancied it on the basis that neither of them was exactly setting the world on fire. Hargreaves became the only Englishman on the pitch for a short while when he replaced Salihamidzic. In truth I didn’t think Bayern were all that, but if you can’t defend at the best of times and travel to an away game with such all powerful midfield ball winners as Reyes and Pires what do you expect? It wasn’t totally their fault that our defence was abysmal again, but they did little to help. After a crazy solo in our own box from Pires that was a real brown trouser job, Lauren dived in with a two footed tackle that only got a yellow card, possibly because he made some sort of contact with the ball.
After 76 minutes Van Persie came on for Freddie at a time when Vieira was trying to force a number of passes that were not really on, probably because their cover was so good and we don’t play with a target man. Bayern appeared to be going through the motions, as did a number of players in red and white shirts. Cole replaced Clichy. Flamini won a free kick but the ball in from Pires saw Cygan head hoplelessly wide. Our next free kick was from wide right, a Bayern head got a touch before Pat found himself in space only to fire it against the post. Kolo was on hand to lash home to make it 3-1 and at least we had a lifeline. It was well taken, but not quite enough to make up for his two earlier cock-ups. Henry was then offside in a move that would have won a penalty. Lucio, who’d been in control at the back throughout, kicked the ball away for a silly yellow card during the three minutes added time and that was it. Another crap night in Europe.
We played better football in central midfield than Bayern but the match is always won and lost in the final thirds where we just didn’t do it. We should be dead and buried but lets be positive; I recall very clearly a match I saw in Brussels when we were losing an away leg 3-0 and getting turned over before a young Ray Kennedy came on to give us hope very late in the game. It was of course a 3-1 defeat against Anderlect. For any who saw it the return leg was probably the all time classic European game at Highbury. I for one feel I’m well overdue another such night, but if I’m really honest I think I’m probably pissing into the wind.