I bawled like a baby, sitting next to the Manchester United supporters in Munich, as time expired during the quarter-finals that same season. "This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen", I sputtered, wiping tears off my face. I cried again, against Juventus, in 2009, when Tymo scored in injury time to seal our 1-4 victory. And I scared a pub full of people in Charlotte, NC on April 10th, 2008 watching the Getafe - Bayern match go in to extra time, Luca Toni scoring at the death. I gave a shout like nothing that I thought I was ever capable of uttering, and then burst in to tears as I got congratulatory texts from all over the world.
But, this time was different. Special. And I cried quietly to myself at home.
Fourteen goals in three days? That's a lot of Jaegermeister, my friends! While the match against Hoffenheim was spectacular, it was against... well... Hoffenheim. And most of the press leading up to the Basel match felt the same way. Basel, after all, had knocked out the perennially mighty Manchester United, and was looking to be the giant-killers again with a 1-0 aggregate lead coming in to Munich.
I was so nervous and restless that I got almost no sleep the night before the match, only finally nodding off at dawn, to sneak a few hours in before match-time. And as the match began, I found myself unable to keep my seat - praying and hoping for an early goal. 'Cos that's all we needed. An early goal.
And it started to look like, once again, Basel keeper Yann Sommer would have the game of his life; saving early shots from Philipp Lahm and Arjen Robben. And after being able to breathe a bit easier when Arjen levelled the aggregate score on 10 minutes, Sommer saved Mario Gomez twice, David Alaba and Thomas Mueller, as well. Only on 42 minutes, when Mueller scored the second, could I finally exhale. It wasn't too much to ask for three goals in the first half, was it? Gomez said "nope" two minutes later, knocking in a chip from Badstuber across the box.
That was the first of four for Super Mario as he managed to score again on 50, 61 and 67 minutes. His four-goal haul equalling a Champions League record for fastest time to score four, needing only 23 minutes to get the job done. Comparisons to Lionel Messi ran hard and thick, and every Bayern Munich fan was hoping he'd score a fifth. Alas, it was not to be, but die Roten weren't deterred by adding insult to injury when Robben scored his brace on 81 minutes.
The entire starting XI + 3 subs gets my "Man of the Match", as the team was perfect, perfect, perfect. Perfekt. I can not see Jupp Heynckes switching Lahm back to the left any time soon, as Alaba has done a bang-up job there these last two matches, and Lahm himself has played spectacularly, linking up very well with Robben on the right.
Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng didn't have much to do, solely because the midfield did so well, but whatever came their way was handled deftly. Toni Kroos and Luis Gustavo bossed Basel all over the park, with the German international marshaling a very potent offense.
And, what else can you say about the four up front? Absolutely spectacular. Ribery, while not on the scoreboard, assisted Gomez three times, menacing Steinhoefer for his full 79 minutes. The trio of Robben, Mueller and Lahm devastated the right.
I'm aware that Gomez has many detractors, "he's a poacher" or "he's bad on the ball", but poaching takes intelligence and he is, more often than not, in exactly the right place at the right time. There's no one else I'd rather see up front.
So, this is the pivotal match? And, all is right in the world of Bayern Munich? Personally, like Robben, I think the turning point was the match against Schalke, with the loss to Leverkusen being a complete abberation. Abomination. Whatever. But, whenever you think it was, it has certainly happened. We have put the Bundesliga and, indeed, the Champions League on notice. We are back.
Here's to crying in Munich in May.
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