Juventus give Pep a run for his money

Bayern midfielder Thomas Mueller celebrating with fans after the 6-4 aggregate win over Italian champions Juventus on Wednesday. The German side trailed 0-2 before scoring four straight goals.
Bayern midfielder Thomas Mueller celebrating with fans after the 6-4 aggregate win over Italian champions Juventus on Wednesday. The German side trailed 0-2 before scoring four straight goals.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Midfielder Thiago Alcantara scoring past Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to give Bayern a 3-2 lead during extra time, before Kingsley Coman's winning strike. Bayern midfielder Thomas Mueller celebrating with fans after the 6-4 aggregate win over
Midfielder Thiago Alcantara scoring past Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to give Bayern a 3-2 lead during extra time, before Kingsley Coman's winning strike.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Bayern eye disaster before dramatic last-gasp equaliser, followed by two extra-time goals

BERLIN • Pep Guardiola this week offered a rare insight into the pressure he feels to deliver Bayern Munich a Champions League trophy, telling reporters that he was fully aware of the criticism he would face if they were eliminated by Juventus on Wednesday.

"I know what will come towards me in the coming months should we lose," the Spanish manager said a day before Bayern staged a memorable comeback, battling from two goals down to score four times and beat last season's finalists 4-2.

Bayern, who needed a last-gasp equaliser to force extra time against the Italian Serie A side, advanced to the last eight 6-4 on aggregate to keep alive their hopes of winning another treble.

Guardiola's own hopes of leaving Bayern for Manchester City at the end of the season with another Champions League title to his name had looked dead and buried after Juve raced to a 2-0 lead after 28 minutes.

The Italian outfit, who themselves come back from a 0-2 deficit in the first leg in Turin to draw 2-2, could even have added to their tally and Bayern's European dreams appeared to be fading away in front of their shocked home crowd.

IN THE NICK OF TIME

I don't care who we play next. If you want to reach the semi-finals then you have to be ready to beat any opponent. But we are there. We made it. A minute later and we would have been out.

PEP GUARDIOLA, Bayern Munich coach.

The Spaniard took over at Bayern three years ago after leading Barcelona to 14 titles in four years, and was charged with maintaining the German club's European dominance after the treble-winning 2013 season under his predecessor Jupp Heynckes.

STILL THE ONES TO BEAT

Now we can relax and just wait for the next opponent. I don't think there are many teams out there who hope to play Bayern now.

MANUEL NEUER, Bayern Munich goalkeeper.

But he has yet to match those high European expectations, with his team falling in the semi-finals in both previous campaigns.

It had looked to be another disappointing European evening for Guardiola's Bayern, before Robert Lewandowski found the net in the 73rd minute and Thomas Mueller scored a late equaliser to force an extra 30 minutes.

Two goals in extra time from two of Guardiola's substitutes, Thiago Alcantara and Kingsley Coman, then completed their stunning comeback and the manager was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

"I don't care who we play next. If you want to reach the semi-finals then you have to be ready to beat any opponent," he said. "But we are there. We made it. A minute later and we would have been out."

But Guardiola baulked at a cheeky question as to whether he would now like to face his future employers (City) in the quarter-finals or the final in Milan on May 28.

"I can't decide that. We'll have to see what comes from the draw," he said tersely.

The victory will no doubt ease pressure him and Bayern can expect to be stronger in the next round with the return of several injured players, including defender Javi Martinez and winger Arjen Robben.

It was a heartbreaking end for Juventus. "Of course I am disappointed," said their coach Massimiliano Allegri. "But I have to pay my team a big compliment: We played one of the favourites for the title and we played better than in the first leg.

"That's football, we made our first big mistake after 90 minutes. And they scored from one of their first few chances. We could have reacted better, but we didn't have the strength left to score another goal."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2016, with the headline 'Juventus give Pep a run for his money'. Print Edition | Subscribe