[BAYERN MUNICH-BARCELONA] Have we seen the end of an era? Barcelona, which has dominated European soccer with 14 trophies (going on 15 with the 2013 La Liga title), slumped to a 4-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal series and looks sure to go out in the semifinals for the fourth time in the last six years. The fact is, Tuesday's defeat could have been worse.
With the hobbling Lionel Messi a shadow of his normal self, Barcelona had little to show for its usual domination in possession. Short of ideas, the Spanish giant had only two shots to show for its 63 percent of the possession.
On the other end, Bayern was rampant, dominating its opponents with its blend of power, speed and precision.
Roared on by a crowd of 68,000 at the Allianz Arena, the German club got two goals from Thomas Mueller, who also assisted a goal by Mario Gomez and set a basketball-style pick that wiped out Jordi Albaand allowed Arjen Robben to dash in from the right wing and slot the ball home from a tight angle.
Barca had a right to feel aggrieved on the Robben goal, but it was also lucky to have avoided a pair of penalties for handballs in the area.
The Catalan club certainly missed injured captain Carles Puyol in the middle of its defense, but it's hard to believe the final result would have been much better for Barca with him in the lineup.
The warning signs for Barca have been there all spring. It fell behind AC Milan 2-0 in the first leg of the round of 16 before moving on. It was lucky to get past Paris St. Germain in the quarterfinals.
Messi's hamstring injury rendered him ineffective. He hasn't played a La Liga game since before being injured in the first leg against PSG and only played the last half hour of the second leg against PSG before starting on Tuesday.
While his La Liga streak of 19 games in a row with at least one goal is still alive, he hasn't scored a goal in three weeks -- an eternity by his standards -- since he put Barca ahead shortly before being injured in the first half of the game in Paris.
"Miracles are very difficult and 4-0 is a very difficult result to turn around," admitted Barca's assistant coach Jordi Roura, referring to the second leg at the Camp Nou on May 1. "But our duty is to fight until the end and that is what we will do."
Bayern is enjoying a record-breaking season -- it has lost just one of 30 Bundesliga matches and is one goal shy of averaging three a game -- but the ease with which it picked apart the Barca defense was astonishing. Tuesday's result surprised even Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
"We played fantastically today," he said. "I have never experienced a night like this, and I have been around for quite some time. I think we all saw Lionel Messi was not fully fit. We have a very good chance now of reaching the final."
April 23 in Munich
Bayern Munich 4 Barcelona 0.Goals: Muller 25, Gomez 49, Robben 73, Muller 82.
Bayern Munich --Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Robben, Muller (Pizarro 83), Ribery (Shaqiri 88), Gomez (Gustavo 71).
Barcelona --Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Bartra, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Sanchez, Messi, Pedro (Villa 83).
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)