The Telegraph
Friday , April 11 , 2014
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How the mighty have fallen

- Bayern punish Manchester United; Barcelona bow to Atletico
Thomas Muller celebrates his goal with teammates on Wednesday

Munich: Holders Bayern Munich recovered from the shock of conceding a stunning Patrice Evra goal to score three times in quick succession to beat Manchester United 3-1 and 4-2 on aggregate reach the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday.

An uninspiring quarter final, second leg burst into life when Evra met a bouncing ball with a rasping half-volley to put United ahead in the 57th minute and 2-1 in front on aggregate.

Mario Mandzukic equalised also immediately — in the 59th minute — for Bayern with a header and Thomas Muller turned in an Arjen Robben cross in the 68th minute before Dutchman Robben added the third himself in the 76th minute after a trademark weaving run.

Wayne Rooney had missed a golden chance to put United 2-1 ahead on the night when he scuffed a shot from in front of goal before Bayern took command to progress and stay on course to emulate last year’s treble.

“I think our first half was okay, we created some chances but we started badly in the second half and were punished,” United’s chief tormentor Robben said.

“It was good to score the equaliser that quickly. Then we added two more and ended it. That’s football. Our coach warned us. 0-0 is okay but we wanted to win, the first 10 minutes after the break was a catastrophe.”

United manager David Moyes, who will not be able to offer the club Champions League football next year, said his team had paid for switching off after taking the lead.

“It probably went wrong 30 seconds after we scored,” he told a television channel.

As in the first leg 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 Shinja 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 edged of the area.

United’s joy was shortlived though as Bayern replied immediately when Mandzukic got in front of Evra to score with a diving header after a Frank 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 Welbeck rolled the ball invitingly to him.

Muller put Bayern in front when he turned in Robben’s 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 which took a deflection off Nemanja Vidic.

With the Bundesliga title already in the bag, Bayern can now look forward to challenging for more silverware in the coming weeks, but for United this defeat all but ended their season.

Seventh in the Premier League, David Moyes’s side will almost certainly be missing from next season’s Champions League.

In Madrid, at the Calderon, Atletico Madrid tamed Lionel Messi and Neymar to send La Liga rivals Barcelona crashing out after Koke’s early goal secured a shock 2-1 aggregate 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.

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 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.

Having already lost playmaker Arda Turan to a groin problem, there was more bad news for Atletico before kick-off 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. (Reuters)