Olic brace sends Bayern into semi-finals
Bayern Munich reached the UEFA Champions League semi-finals after Croatian striker Ivica Olic scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Marseille in their quarter-final second leg today.
With the Bavarians having won 4-0 on aggregate, Bayern will host the first leg of their semi-final on 17 April, most likely against Real Madrid, who host APOEL with a 3-0 lead in the second leg of their last-eight match tomorrow.
Olic was back in the hero role, two years after his hat-trick in Lyon put Bayern through to the 2010 final, where they lost 2-0 to a Jose Mourinho-inspired Inter Milan in Madrid. Bayern are now within touching distance of the final that Munich's Allianz Arena will host on 19 May as they look to win the Champions League trophy for the second time and claim their fifth European Cup title overall.
"We were very concentrated, despite the amount of games we are playing at the moment," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, whose side are in contention for a Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup treble. "In the first half, (goalkeeper) Manuel Neuer rescued us a few times. After that we came back stronger and deserved the win. Marseille weren't in the quarter-finals for nothing and they tried everything."
Having lost the first leg 2-0 in Marseille last Wednesday, the visitors were always facing an uphill task to win in Munich. First-choice goalkeeper and captain Steve Mandanda was back from suspension and endured a busy night, while midfielder Alou Diarra was suspended. He was replaced by Benoit Cheyrou, with Brazilian striker Brandao up front and top scorer Loic Remy on the right flank.
"We lost to a great team, but we did not give up," said Remy. "Hats off to Bayern, I hope they go all the way. We still have the League Cup final to look forward to and we want to do well in the league."
Bayern were missing suspended German star Bastian Schweinsteiger and coach Jupp Heynckes opted to leave in-form pair Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben the goal-scorers from the first leg, on the bench. Germany's Thomas Mueller started on the right, with Olic in front of Toni Kroos in the attacking midfield role.
Marseille had a good early chance when Cheyrou found his way through the Bayern defence and teed up Jeremy Morel to shoot, forcing Bayern's Manuel Neuer into a low save. The opening goal came on 13 minutes when Franck Ribery found space down the right wing and his cross was converted by Olic for his first goal in two months.
Marseille refused to lie down, though, and Cameroonian midfielder Stephane Mbia forced Neuer into another fine save on 18 minutes. At the other end, Mandanda was kept busy as Kroos and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk both tested him, while Olic managed a shot with two defenders shadowing him.
The 32-year-old was rewarded for his hard work with a second goal on 37 minutes after some fine play by Marseille old boy Ribery allowed Austria's David Alaba to fire in a cross for Olic to convert again. With his team 4-0 up on aggregate, Heynckes immediately brought off Mueller for Brazil's Rafinha.
The second half was mainly a dull affair with Bayern cruising into the last four and Marseille doing their best to frustrate the Germans. The outstanding Ribery drew a double save out of Mandanda after the restart, though, and then the equally-impressive Kroos went close when he dragged a shot wide.
Brandao's header could have given Marseille the most fanciful of lifelines, but sailed over and from then on, Bayern clicked into cruise control and saw the game out with some ease. Kroos made way for Danijel Pranjic, possibly with one eye on Bayern's showdown with German league leaders Borussia Dortmund on 11 April, while Gomez, who hit four against Basel in the round of 16, replaced Olic with 15 minutes left.