Experience trumps Juventus

Posted by Susie Schaaf

Bayern Munich secured their Champions League semifinal ticket against a Juventus side outclassed over 180 minutes of football both away and at home, 2-0 on Wednesday in Turin, 4-0 on aggregate.

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Bayern has been down this road often of late, and perhaps Juventus keeper Gigi Buffon said it best: "The big difference between them and us is experience. I was even more impressed tonight than I was in Munich. In the first leg we did not give our all, but tonight we did, and there was still nothing we could do."

Lovely words from Buffon, to say the least.

Against Arsenal, in the first leg, Bayern was content to relinquish possession and hit on the break to devastating effect. And it seemed like this match was going that way Wednesday as Munich allowed Juventus to control possession in the first half. But Bastian Schweinstieger would finally start to assert himself after 20 minutes, and things would get interesting.

Andrea Pirlo was able to be much more involved due to another nothing yellow card on Bayern striker Mario Mandzukic after a Giorgio Chiellini dive on seven minutes. Mandzukic and Thomas Mueller were a major part of Bayern's success the first leg as they constantly harangued the Italian talisman.

But this was to be expected, perhaps, due to who was calling the match: Spain's Carlos Velasco Carballo. You know, the guy who ruined last year's quarterfinal tie against Olympique de Marseilles by handing out a preposterous seven cards in France. Sadly, Mandzukic is suspended for the first leg of the semifinal, the one Chiellini will be watching from home.

Mandzukic rebounded from the shocking card -- and a 12 man Juventus side -- by getting the first real nose on goal, a flick just caught by Leonardo Bonucci. But on the other end, my man-of-the-match Manuel Neuer saved a Pirlo free kick, while Paul Pogba crossed low in front of the German keeper with no takers from The Old Lady.

Daniel van Buyten was subbed out for Jerome Boateng with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, the Belgian complaining of blurred vision after a Chiellini eye-poke prior. But after a Pogba scare in front of Neuer, Buffon was called upon to save a David Alaba volley, as well as looking after threats from Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben.

The second half opened brightly for Juve as a Pirlo free kick (awarded ponderously) bounced off the wall and in to Neuer's outstretched arms. Just three minutes later, Fabio Quagliarella shot wide. Quagliarella, again, elicited a lovely reaction save out of Neuer, but was found to be offsides, before the screws would really start to turn in Bayern's favor.

After Chiellini "earned" another free kick, Neuer would collect and launch a ball forward for Ribery, who passed to Robben, only for the Dutchman to crush the post. Bayern finally sealed the coffin at 64 minutes after an excellently-struck Schweinstieger free kick found Javi Martinez's leg.

Buffon could only push out; the rebound headed in by Mandzukic, meaning now Juventus would need to put four on Bayern in 26 minutes.

While flares ignited in the away section, and scores of Juventus fans leaving the stadium, the Bianconeri were now faced with an impossible task, and the field opened up for the Bavarians. Mueller might have doubled the total for Munich a couple minutes later, but Mandzukic's sub, Claudio Pizarro, got the honor in stoppage time; beating Buffon after a Schweinsteiger pass. In Champions League competition this season, 57 percent of Pizarro's shots have resulted in goals.

Bayern will graciously cede the title of most exciting quarterfinal match to Borussia Dortmund's second leg against Malaga. For Bayern, harkening back to Buffon's words: This was business as usual. Experience as usual. Perhaps now, after making the semis, "bad cop" Matthias Sammer will allow the squad to cut lose a little. Perhaps.

But one title isn't enough for anyone involved with Bayern, and this was a big step on the way to three.

And, although the draw is only Friday, I would put money on Bayern drawing Real Madrid, with Barcelona drawing Dortmund. An all-German final at Wembley in the works? I wouldn't want it any other way.

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