Did someone suggest the clash of the semi-finals' lesser lights would provide no spectacle? Bayern Munich's uncomfortably narrow win over Lyons last night was punctuated by two sendings-off before Arjen Robben provided evidence that Lionel Messi is not the only contender for European Footballer of the Year and then engaged in a touchline clash with his manager when he had the audacity to substitute him.
Bayern were in trouble after Franck Ribéry capped the week in which he has been interviewed over alleged involvement in a prostitution ring with a first-half dismissal, but Louis van Gaal's appreciation of Robben's 79th minute winner – a powerful, marginally deflected left-foot strike - did not stretch to tolerating a fit of pique.
Though Robben had good reason to wish to stay on, the famously imperious Van Gaal, who is seeking to take a fourth club to European Cup success, went eyeball to eyeball and jabbed him in the chest before the player stormed away.
When the dust settles this morning, both he and his winger – who has found the net in each of his last four Champions League games – will rue their club's failure to take greater advantage of a Lyons side who provided no advertisement for the French game and no attacking imagination.
The Germans' profligacy in front of goal was their deficiency once again, though they will be confident of maintaining their habit of scoring away from home in Europe next week. The 23-year-old French No 1 Hugo Lloris did not command great confidence, despite the billing which has seen him linked to Manchester United, and the experienced Brazilian defender Cris also has reason to fear Robben buzzing around him again.
Ribéry's dismissal leaves his Bayern future looking even more uncertain, wracked as the player has been all season by the disappointment of missing out on the move to Real Madrid he has so craved the past two summers. The 27-year-old had done more than enough to maintain Chelsea's long-standing interest in him before placing a horrible, studs-up tackle on Lisandro – over the ball and into a spot just above the ankle the Argentinian recently injured. The well placed Italian referee Roberto Rosetti had no hesitation and every justification in dismissing him on 37 minutes.
Ribéry might have been needled by a strong, though perfectly legal, challenge by Cris minutes earlier and he is certainly not known to be a reckless player. He had previously been dismissed only four times in his career. But the expression on the face of the onlooking Franz Beckenbauer said everything.
Lyons, who seemed to be in Germany to defend and counter-attack, failed to press their advantage, though, and 10 minutes into the second half, the team numbers were level. Three minutes after he had been booked for tripping Robben, Jérémy Toulalan was harshly dismissed after launching into a challenge with Bastian Schweinsteiger, winning the ball but catching the player – who made the most of the contact.
"Typical Germans?" A certain Scottish manager would have been shaking his head at home in Wilmslow. It was Rosetti who dubiously dismissed United's Darren Fletcher in last season's semi final.
Robben's influence on the game became ominously strong before he was inexplicably allowed a yard or two of space to advance at the Lyons defence and unravel a 20-yard shot which Thomas Muller – ducking to avoid the ball – deflected past Lloris. The Germans look most likely to take the decisive step to the Bernabeu.
Bayern Munich (4-4-2): Butt; Lahm, Van Buyten, Demichelis, Contento; Robben (Altintop 85), Schweinsteiger, Pranjic (Gomez 63), Ribéry; Muller, Olic (Tymoschuk 46). Substitutes not used Rensing, Gorlitz, Klose, Alaba.
Lyons (4-4-2): Lloris; Reveillere, Cris, Toulalan, Cissokho; Gonalons, Kallstrom, Ederson (Michel Bastos 71), Pjanic (Makoun 55); Delgado (Govou 79), Lopez. Substitutes not used Vercoutre, Gomis, Anderson, Gassama.
Referee R Rosetti (Italy).Reuse content