On Tuesday evening in Munich, Barcelona were amply reminded of the age-old soccer maxim that you pay the price if you don’t take your chances. It’s a shame, as it was a keenly anticipated game seen as an opportunity to gauge the true level of this new Barça side, and the result feels misleading. After all, the Blaugrana were excellent in the first half; they created several chances, and only went into the break empty-handed because of the unexpected profligacy of players who don’t tend to be profligate - most notably Robert Lewandowski. On top of that, both the referee and his video assistant opted to wave away a Barça appeal for a penalty, despite Ousmane Dembélé being fouled in the box. It really is hard to understand how the visitors didn’t score in the first 45.
Barcelona only have themselves to blame
What happened after half time was less hard to understand. As I said in my previous column, Barça may be terrific going forward, but at the back they don’t look tight enough (or forceful enough; perhaps that’s a better way of putting it). That failing reared its ugly head when they conceded from a corner, and again when they quickly let in a second, Leroy Sané cutting through the heart of a flimsy, out-of-position backline. After that, Barça spent a period looking thoroughly dazed, and when they found their feet once more, it was too late. You get punished for your mistakes in elite soccer, and that’s why the points went to Bayern in spite of their struggles in the first half, while Barça return to Catalonia feeling bitter about what might have been. They only have themselves to blame.
Atlético made to pay in similar fashion
To a degree, Barcelona’s experience against Bayern is comparable to Atlético Madrid’s against Bayer Leverkusen. Atlético’s defeat also came down to the fact that soccer is a game of moments and they were off the mark at the crucial times. And, like Barça, Los Rojiblancos were done out of a penalty - in their case, after Edmond Tapsoba clearly handled in the area. It was one of those where the player moves towards the ball to prevent it from reaching an unmarked attacker, but the latest nonsense is that handballs aren’t given close to the deck, so Leverkusen got away with it. Later, Yannick Carrasco certainly didn’t get away with it when his slack defending allowed Leverkusen to take the lead with time running out. As Atleti looked for a leveller, the Germans then hit the hosts on the break for a second. It’s a bad defeat for Diego Simeone’s men, because qualification has been made all the trickier by Club Brugge’s surprising, maximum-points start to the campaign.