Thomas Müller, the quick-witted, hard-charging Bayern Munich forward, became yet more immortal on Wednesday night.
In the second leg of the Champions League match against Juventus of Turin, Germany's most valued soccer player scored an equalizing goal in the 91st minute, the first minute of added injury time, putting the Bavarians back in the game.
The scintillating draw sent the match into extra time, with the German powerhouse completing a 4-2 victory despite trailing 0-2 at halftime. The win qualifies Bayern Munich for the quarter finals and a chance to win its sixth Champions League title.
And the further the Bavarians advance in the tournament, the more millions of euros they’ll earn. The extra funds are desperately needed to allow the club to compete in the increasingly expensive player transfer market, which is dominated by English Premier League clubs backed by billionaire investors and lucrative broadcasting deals.
For the more than 71,000 fans in Munich’s futuristic Allianz Arena and the millions glued to their TV sets around the world, the game was the competition's best so far this season and arguably the best two-legged tie seen for years in the Champions League.
It was heart-throbbing match from start to finish.
Bayern Munich Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, a former star player in Munich and Milan, spoke of an enthralling match and one not recommended for fans with “heart conditions.”
At least in regulation time, it seemed like a déjà vu, a near replica of the first leg in Turin, where Bayern dominated for 80 minutes, leading 2-0, before Juventus powered its way back into the game with two late goals to salvage a tie.
It was heart-throbbing match from start to finish. Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri surprised his Bayern rival Pep Guardiola with a clever strategy, a mix of aggressive pressing deep in Bayern’s half from the start of the whistle, smart, tough defense and dangerous counterattacks. The Italians were nearly flawless for the first 70 minutes, running hard, forcing mistakes and winning more shots at goal.
Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer looked uncharacteristically harassed by Juve’s aggressive, high-tempo play. He was partly responsible for the two goals scored by Paul Pogba and Juan Cuadrado in the first half. But it was David Alba, typically a rock-solid defender, who made the direct errors that led to both goals.
If the Italians can blame themselves for anything, then it’s that they couldn’t finish off the game after dominating for so long. “We should have made it 3-0 when we had the chance,” Mr. Allegri said in a post-game interview. He still praised the performance of the team, which played without midfielder Claudio Marchisio, defender Giorgio Chiellini and striker Paulo Dybala, who were injured.
After Robert Lewandowski headed a ball whipped in from midfielder Douglas Costa in the 73rd minute, Bayern gained momentum and confidence. Then Mr. Guardiola showed why many view him to be the best coach in the world. He tactically out-thought Mr. Allegri with his substitutes to put Bayern back into the match, bringing in a young roadrunner and experienced tactician.
It was none other than forward Kingsley Coman, the talented, quick 19-year-old French forward on loan from Juventus, who not only dashed down the sideline and fed Mr. Costa the ball he crossed to Mr. Lewandowski for the first goal, but also scored the fourth goal of the game after a more than 50-meter sprint.
Mr. Guardiola’s other key substitute, part of what pundits had called his “Plan B,” was Thiago Alcantara, the gifted Spanish midfielder who scored the third goal in the 108th minute, two minutes ahead of Mr. Coman’s.
“To score four times against an Italian team when you’re tailing 2-0 is a big deal,” Mr. Guardiola said in a post-game interview.
Guardiola has won three successive Bundesliga titles and is well on his way to win a fourth. Winning the Champions League with Bayern Munich, after claiming the title twice with Barcelona, would complete his legacy with the Germans before he takes over as coach of Manchester City in the summer.
The quarter-final draw will be made on Friday, and Mr. Guardiola could potentially face his future employer as one of eight opponents, which also include Barcelona, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.
If Bayern should draw Manchester City, Mr. Guardiola may need a “Plan C” not only to secure his legacy in Munich, but also to save his welcoming party in Manchester.
John Blau is a senior editor at Handelsblatt Global Edition. To contact the author: [email protected]