Guardiola goes mental about 2-2 draw with Juventus, says Neil Humphreys
Guardiola's men cannot kill off contests
ROUND OF 16, 1ST LEG
(Paulo Dybala 63, Stefano Sturaro 76)
BAYERN MUNICH 2
(Thomas Mueller 43, Arjen Robben 55)
Pep Guardiola clearly didn't like the question.
The Bayern Munich manager is an erudite, polite guy, but if looks could kill, then the press conference would've resembled the climatic scenes of The Walking Dead yesterday morning (Singapore time.)
The query concerned Bayern's physical condition, a reasonable question, considering Juventus had snatched a 2-2 draw after falling two goals behind.
But Guardiola's response was extraordinary.
"I know that in Italy you are about physical condition," he snapped. "I don't give a f*** for the physical condition."
But the uncharacteristic flash of anger betrayed his deceit. He does care about Bayern's physical condition. Of course he does.
The prestige that comes with winning one-club domestic leagues is slightly tarnished when Bayern cannot kill off opponents in the Champions League.
Ahead of his move to Manchester City, the Spaniard is eager to prove that he doesn't simply inherit established franchises and fine-tune their sleek machines, he takes them one step beyond.
But Bayern's careless defending in the final half-hour underlined their fatigue. Guardiola stressed the difference between his side's mental and physical conditions, suggesting that one was more important than the other, but he came across as a bitter man splitting hairs.
Whether it was mental, physical or a combination of the two, Bayern allowed the Italian side to pull themselves from the depths of defeat and pinch a plucky draw.
To make an interesting comparison, the visitors dominated for more than an hour, frustrating the hosts with a fast, precise possession game, making it hard for their opponents to get within the same postcode of the ball.
BARCA THE BEST
That was Barcelona at Arsenal.
But they persevered, finding a second wind to score two goals at the Emirates, roughly around the same time as Bayern were conceding two soft goals in Turin.
Lionel Messi ended Arsenal's resistance with goals in the 71st and 84th minutes. Bayern succumbed to Juventus' resistance, conceding to Paulo Dybala and Stefano Sturaro in the 63rd and 76th minutes respectively.
The comparison is unfair only in the sense that Juventus are a superior side to the Gunners, with Guardiola correctly pointing out that Juve were last season's Champions League finalists and have hauled in four consecutive Serie A titles.
He's right on that score. Juve are no pub team.
But his insistence that his side were "great" and that the draw might be "the happiest evening" of his career made less sense than Bayern's calamitous defending.
Poor Joshua Kimmich, just 21, was ruthlessly exposed as Juve's recovery targeted his inexperience and unfamiliar partnership with David Alaba in central defence.
Bayern were without Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber and Javi Martinez at the back, but Juve were also missing star defender Giorgio Chiellini.
Bayern's early dominance was breathtaking, with Arjen Robben combining telepathically with Philipp Lahm to traumatise the ageing Patrice Evra, while Douglas Costa pretty much did the same to Stephan Lichtsteiner.
But Juventus played on the backfoot, encouraging Bayern to pour forward as if manager Massimiliano Allegri had instigated a misguided rope-a-dope strategy.
Paul Pogba and Juan Cuadrado were usually isolated as the Bayern Blitzkrieg surged past them and yet the German side could only corner their Italian hosts. They couldn't finish them off.
Juventus reacted with the ferocity of a cornered dog. They bit back.
Allegri reiterated his deft ability to radically alter the complexion of contests, outfoxing Guardiola and ordering his timid charges to take the game to Bayern.
Hernanes had already replaced the ineffectual Claudio Marchisio, but the introduction of Sturaro for an exhausted Sami Khedira and then Alvaro Morata for Dybala, who had ran himself into the ground, did the real damage.
Unlike Barcelona, Bayern can be pinned back by a spirited response. As the game progressed, the German side's neat shapes grew increasingly ragged. Possession was conceded. Mistakes were made. It's not the stuff of champions, but the work of weary men.
In the dugout, Allegri resorted to brinkmanship and got the desired result. It wasn't that Guardiola blinked first. He didn't really blink at all.
There appeared to be little he could do beyond sending on Franck Ribery in the hope of a late, dramatic cameo.
Nothing happened. Like the press conference, there were many questions, but Guardiola didn't appear to have the right answers.
With the second leg on March 16 at home and a couple of away goals in the bag, Bayern are still favourites.
But they are not racing certainties and that's the uncomfortable reality that eats away at their manager.
Bayern can be magnificent, but they cannot always sustain their momentum.
In short, they are not Barcelona. And that's what really bothers Guardiola.
The most important thing in the second leg will be to not concede a goal, to play in a forwardthinking way, like we did in the second half. Then we’ll see what happens. We believe we can do it. We can play the football for it.
— Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba
Allegri: We need to improve
ONE MORE TIME: Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri (right) is hoping that his side can reprise the second-half showing that saw them fight back to draw 2-2.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has called for his side to improve, after the Italian giants dramatically escaped defeat by Bayern Munich in a 2-2 draw in Turin yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Juventus, last year's beaten Champions League finalists, have their work cut out to reach the quarter-finals this term, after a display that underlined just why Bayern are considered favourites, along with holders Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Pep Guardiola's men were faultless on their way to a two-goal lead by the 55th-minute lead, thanks to goals from Thomas Mueller and Arjen Robben, as they pinned the hosts in their own half for long periods.
Although late substitute Stefano Sturaro rescued the hosts 14 minutes from time when he added to Paulo Dybala's 63rd-minute strike, Juve only saved face.
"We need to make improvements in relation to our first-half performance," said Allegri.
"In the opening period, they pushed us hard in our own half and we just couldn't settle.
"We started making a lot of mistakes with our passes and didn't use the space well, but let's not forget we were playing Bayern.
"We showed the courage you need for this competition with a much better second half, so compliments to the lads."
Guardiola, who had won the competition with Barcelona in 2011, is hoping to steer Bayern to this year's final in Milan before he joins Manchester City in the summer.
But the Spaniard is taking nothing for granted for the return leg on March 16.
"I expect Juventus to be a more difficult side in the second leg. We're not dealing with a team from the provinces. Juventus made it to last year's final, not us," said Guardiola. "But it looks like a great second leg. I think it will be epic."
Juventus had to defend for most of the opening period, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saving efforts by Juan Bernat and Joshua Kimmich, before Mueller made no mistake from 12 metres out, converting a cut-back by Douglas Costa.
Juve's defence was taken apart by Bayern's passing game as Robben cut in from the right to pick his spot with a left-footer on 55 minutes.
But the stadium erupted when Dybala reduced arrears on 63 minutes, which finally prompted the hosts to play with purpose.
Allegri replaced Sami Khedira with Sturaro on 69 minutes and, seven minutes later, the stocky midfielder equalised.
"It's the highlight of my short career so far," said 22-year-old Sturaro, whose late strike hit the confidence of the Bavarian side.
Said Robben: "You could feel the disappointment in the dressing room. When you are 2-0 up, you have to close the game down against an opponent like that.
"Above all else, we have to keep control of things in defence."
- Wire Services.