It was just over 11 years ago that Bayern Munich last faced Valencia in the Champions League. That night they beat the Spaniards on penalties in the final to claim what remains their last European trophy. Of course, they almost added to that collection this summer, but Chelsea had other ideas. So, Bayern took to the pitch against the 'best of the rest' from La Liga in the opening game of this season's competition hoping that happier, more distant memories could help banish recent painful ones.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes sprung a surprise by starting Claudio Pizarro, now in his second spell at the club, ahead of Mario Mandzukic, who has started well since signing from Wolfsburg. However, all eyes were on Javi Martinez, the most expensive player in Bundesliga history(EUR40 million from Athletic Bilbao), made his first start for the Bavarians alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield. Valencia coach Mauricio Pellegrino - the man who missed the decisive penalty in that 2001 Champions League final - was pinning his hopes on captain and star striker, Roberto Soldado.
It seemed Pellegrino had forgotten one thing, though: Soldado could do nothing without the ball. A very cautious approach meant that the visitors sat deep for the opening half hour, content to let Bayern have the ball, but looking compact and solid as soon as the hosts came close to their penalty area. For their part, Bayern kept possession well, but looked ponderous and created little, with Robben anonymous on one wing and Ribery only marginally more involved on the other.
With 37 minutes gone, Valencia were punished for their lack of ambition as Ribery won the ball in midfield and, for the first time, ran at pace at the Spanish backline. As he approached the area, he passed to Robben, who fed Schweinsteiger to strike into the corner from the right of the area via a slight deflection. A couple of Bayern half-chances aside, it remained the only real moment of note in the half.
Sensing they had to be slightly more adventurous if they were to take anything from the game, Valencia started the second half with a little more attacking intent and the opening 10 minutes after the break saw more action than the entire previous 45. Toni Kroos tumbled in the area under a heavy challenge, but play continued, while the Spaniards at least ensured Manuel Neuer touched the ball a few times, without really looking menacing.
They say things come in three's - good or bad - and for the purposes of this article, I'll focus on the good. There's horse racing's Triple Crown, there's American baseball's Triple Crown. The Three Musketeers. Triple word score in Scrabble. I'm sure we can go on all day, but there's one special 'three-some' everyone in Munich is focusing on these days. On Saturday, FC Bayern Munich will be looking to make history and join an elite group of European football clubs if they are to win the UEFA Champions League Final against Inter Milan.
Three titles, or as most football fans say, the "treble",...
Munich, May 23 - There will be a list of items going through each Bayern fan later this afternoon as they cheer their team one last time this season: Madrid. Milito. Mourinho. Milan. I would like to add one more for Bayern "missed opportunities" but there just wasn't a lot to discuss about that during Inter Milan's 2-0 victory in the UEFA Champions League Final in Madrid last night.
There's something about playing a Final in Spain that is becoming a major obstacle for Bayern. From the start, they played well; dominating possession and it looked like their game plan would continue to create...
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