Pep aiming to end semi-final hoodoo

Benfica's Victor Nilsson-Lindelof (left) is powerless to prevent Bayern Munich's Arturo Vidal from equalising during their Champions League quarter-final second-leg 2-2 draw on Wednesday.
Benfica's Victor Nilsson-Lindelof (left) is powerless to prevent Bayern Munich's Arturo Vidal from equalising during their Champions League quarter-final second-leg 2-2 draw on Wednesday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LISBON - Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola is hoping his team can take the next step in the Champions League, after the German giants booked a third consecutive semi-final spot under the Spaniard following Wednesday's 3-2 aggregate win over Benfica.

Bayern have now made it to the semi-finals of Europe's top club competition in five straight seasons but have not gone beyond that stage since Guardiola took over in 2013.

Guardiola will be leaving to join Manchester City at the end of the season and is feeling the mounting pressure of delivering the European trophy as his team eye another treble of titles this season.

"We are now where we have been in the past two seasons," he said. "We are in the last four of the Champions League and the German Cup. I hope this time we can take that extra step."

Bayern, also closing in on a record-breaking fourth consecutive Bundesliga title with a seven-point advantage and five games left, are no strangers to European success. They won the Champions League in 2013 for their fifth European crown. They also reached the final in 2010 and 2012.

But they had to survive a scare on Wednesday. The Bavarians, who took a 1-0 first-leg advantage to Lisbon, found themselves a goal down midway through the first half despite controlling the game and having 70 per cent possession at that stage.

Benfica forward Raul Jimenez put the hosts ahead in the 27th to level the tie. The Mexican then came agonisingly close to a second goal as Bayern stuttered and 60,000 fans roared on the hosts in an electric atmosphere.

Just when the Portuguese champions were starting to gain a measure of control, however, Philipp Lahm's cross was only palmed as far as Arturo Vidal by stand-in goalkeeper Ederson. And the Chilean did the rest with a thumping left-footed finish in the 38th minute.

Thomas Mueller struck in the 53rd minute after Javi Martinez headed Xabi Alonso's corner across the face of goal.

"There have been occasions in the past when we lost our heads after conceding a goal," Mueller said.

"But that did not happen tonight. We remained calm and kept controlling the game throughout."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2016, with the headline 'Pep aiming to end semi-final hoodoo'. Print Edition | Subscribe