Champions League

Pep wins possession battle, Messi the war

2015-05-07 08:43
Pep Guardiola (AFP)

Barcelona - Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola had predicted there was nothing he could do to contain the sublime talent of Lionel Messi during their Champions League semi-final against Barcelona on Wednesday -- and he was proved right.

Bayern had 53 percent of possession in their 3-0 first leg defeat which meant that for the first time in more than eight years Barcelona had less of the ball in a Champions League clash.

Barca are renowned for their passing football based around controlling the game in the middle of the pitch and they had gone 96 games since December 2006 boasting a higher percentage of possession than their opponents.

Now Guardiola, who was at the helm of the Catalan side from 2008 to 2012, has instilled a similar approach at Bayern.

"We wanted to keep the ball, that they (Barca) were forced backwards, and that they had to run more," Guardiola told a news conference.

"When you have three in defence you need to dominate and we didn't. Then with four we were more solid and Barca had fewer chances.

"It is not easy against Barca, we were able to stop them having the ball for spells but then at 1-0 we lost our way."

It was an emotional return for Guardiola to Barcelona where he was an iconic figure as a player and then as a coach. He oversaw a golden spell in the club's history when the club picked up 14 trophies out of a possible 19.

Following the departure of Guardiola, Barca's football started to become more predictable and they were guilty at times of holding on to the ball for too long.

Luis Enrique's arrival this season heralded a more direct and exciting style of play that has once again allowed Messi to flourish.

The Argentine unlocked the Bayern defence with some dazzling footwork in the final 15 minutes before Neymar completed the victory.

Before the match Guardiola had admitted that his team would be powerless to stop Messi on the ball and he reinforced this view afterwards.

"You need to make sure that he is not involved in the play and doesn't have the ball because when he does then there is nothing that you can do," he said.

"But Barca have other great players and they are a very solid team."

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