For many, this was the match that came too early. With both teams considered favorites to take the UEFA Champions League title home, Bayern Munich and Juventus was set to be the premier match of the quarter finals.
Both Bayern and Juventus fans were nervous before the massive clash, and for good reason. Both teams have a midfield of the highest caliber, dynamic defenses, and coaches who are considered tactical geniuses.
Bayern Munich started off the game with a flourish however, stunning the Italians as Andrea Pirlo lost possession and saw Austrian left-back David Alaba score before there was even one minute up on the clock (off a slight deflection of Arturo Vidal, much to the delight of Munich fans everywhere.)
A shocked Juventus responded with a measure of control over the game for a short period of time. With Toni Kroos taking on the challenge of marking Andrea Pirlo, the Italian side managed to keep a tempo and compete with Bayern Munich in the midfield.
However, in the sixteenth minute, Toni Kroos suffered a muscle tear injury that will see the influential midfielder out for Bayern for possibly eight weeks. (Six if he and Bayern are lucky.)
With Kroos’s injury, Arjen Robben made his way onto the pitch and Thomas Mueller took up the #10 role. The injury and substitution, while a vital blow to Bayern’s season, proved change the tide of the game into a rather one sided affair with the Bavarians in almost complete control for the rest of the game.
With Kroos no longer able to mark the almost always influential Pirlo, the task fell on Mario Mandzukic. The Croat was able to exercise his influence over the game much like he did when Italy faced Croatia in the Euro 2012 competition by harassing Pirlo and disrupting the flow of the Italians game.
It was a tactical masterstroke from Jupp Heynckes to utilize Mandzukic in the way he did, and it could be argued that for once a striker was man of the match without scoring a goal or getting an assist. With Mandzukic hounding Andrea Pirlo, Juventus’s midfield lost their typical dynamic fashion and fell apart, constantly losing possession to players like Schweinsteiger and Gustavo.
The introduction of Arjen Robben also proved to be a difference maker for the Bavarians, as the Dutchman tormented Federico Peluso all night long. Even though Robben didn’t score, he managed to keep Bayern’s game in Juventus’s half with his signature runs down the right flank.
Then, in the 63rd minutes, Thomas Mueller confirmed his class by scoring a second goal for the Bavarians and put the result to rest.
From then on, the Italians pressed forward in attack by adding on Paul Pogba and Sebastian Giovinco, but Bayern’s defensive rocks Philipp Lahm and Dante held firm.
As always when German and Italian teams square off, there was questionable play involved, and referee Mark Clattenburg had a poor game. Arturo Vidal was lucky not to be sent off in the first half not only for a very cynical tackle on Franck Ribery, but for a myriad of other challenges. In turn, Franck Ribery was lucky not to get a red card for an ankle stomp on Vidal.
There will be claims of missed penalties from both sides, and there has also been some question that Thomas Mueller’s goal was offside, but nobody can question that the result was a fair one. Bayern Munich were comprehensively the better team, both in attack, defense and tactics. Heynckes managed to get everything right down to his substitutions and line-up, even including the massive Belgian Daniel Van Buyten to help keep Juventus corner kicks quiet.
Bayern Munich and Juventus are set to meet again on Wednesday, April 10th in Turin. Juventus will most likely change their tactics and will likely be a much more difficult side for the Munich to take down, especially in Italy. But with a two goal lead, it’s difficult to see the Bavarians not marching onward to the semi-finals.