PARIS: Doubles from Robert Lewandowski and Neymar inspired Bayern Munich and Barcelona respectively into the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday.
Lewandowski’s brace came in a crazy first half where Bayern rattled five goals past a demoralised Porto side, who had come into the game leading 3-1 after the first leg and with real hopes of reaching their first semi-final since they won the trophy in 2004.
The game ended 6-1 and a 7-4 aggregate victory for Bayern and extended their coach Pep Guardiola’s remarkable record in the competition where in six campaigns he has never failed to reach the last four.
While Bayern president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said ‘We have seen something miraculous’, Guardiola poured praise over his players.
“At this moment, it’s easy to love my players,” beamed Guardiola.
Not even splitting his trousers while shouting instructions from the sidelines could take away the joy the 44-year-old Spaniard felt.
“Ah, they broke. It’s not so bad, I’ll just put on a new pair for the next game,” said Guardiola.
For his opposite number, Julen Lopetegui, it was a devastating evening.
“The first half here in Munich cost us everything, we were punished and now we have to pick ourselves up again,” said Lopetegui.
Neymar also scored his double in the first half for Guardiola’s former side Barcelona — whom he guided to two Champions League trophies in his spell there — as they eased to a 2-0 win on the night and a 5-1 aggregate win over French champions Paris Saint Germain.
“I am very happy with the season I am having and we need to continue like this to achieve our objectives. We need to keep going and get to the final,” said Neymar, who took his tally to 30 goals for the season.
“In my first goal Iniesta did everything. All I had to do was dribble past the goalkeeper and score.”
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique was delighted with the result in what was his 50th match in charge and still on course for a treble this season, all the more extraodinary that rumours earlier in the season suggested his job was at risk after apparently falling out with Lionel Messi.
“I hope the best is yet to come,” said the 44-year-old former Spain international, who played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona.
“We are where we wanted to be but we need to go forward from here.
“We are determined to be among the best two clubs in Europe.”
While Barcelona, who have won 23 and drawn one of their last 25 games, reached their seventh semi-final in eight seasons, for PSG it was their third successive exit at this stage.
PSG coach Laurent Blanc had said prior to the game that they weren’t coming on a ‘school trip’ but having been made to look like children playing against adults he felt deflated.
“We knew Barcelona were better than us. When I say there are things lacking, I mean Barca are a stronger team than us,” said Blanc.
“To compete with a team like Barcelona, we need all of our strengths and we need them at 120%. It wasn’t the case in those two games.
“Realizing a treble (Ligue 1+French Cup+League Cup which they have already won) is still a goal for the players and the staff.
“It feels a bit ouf of place to talk about this tonight, however. We are disappointed. It hurts to be out of the competition but we need to rest for the game against Lille (on Saturday) because, as you know, the calendar won’t allow much time to rest.”