Bayern let off by Lewandowski as Barcelona pay the price in familiar tale

By Sports Desk September 13, 2022

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So that proved in Tuesday's Champions League clash at the Allianz Arena, a match billed as Robert Lewandowski's reunion with Bayern Munich, the club he left for Barcelona in a €50million deal just two months ago.

Yet in the end, the Poland international failed to make the impact many had predicted on his return to Bavaria, on a night of disappointment for Barca against opponents they must simply hate the sight of.

Two goals in the space of four minutes early in the second half from Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sane proved the difference between the sides as Bayern made it five wins in a row against the Catalans by an aggregate 19-4 scoreline.

Going further back, this was Barca's ninth Champions League loss to Bayern, which is now more than twice as many as they have suffered against any other opponent in the competition (four v Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea).

Julian Nagelsmann had called on his Bayern side to "put on a show" amid growing doubts over his own future on the back of three successive league draws, Bayern's longest wait for victory in the Bundesliga in four years.

For 45 enthralling minutes, the hosts were second best and rather grateful that their former hero Lewandowski had stage fright on his first trip back to this ground.

The prolific striker had five shots alone in the first half, which was one more than the entire Bayern side, equating to an expected goals (xG) return of 0.5 compared to 0.3 for the hosts.

Lewandowski would have expected to capitalise during his time at Bayern – he scored 344 times in 375 appearances for the German giants – but this proved to be a rare off-day.

He also failed to get his head on Joshua Kimmich's delightful corner that was instead met by Hernandez for the opening goal of the contest. At that point, Barca had conceded 16 goals from the past 30 shots on target faced against Bayern in the Champions League.

That soon became 17 goals from 31 shots on target thanks to Sane's goal after the winger was played in by the ever-improving Jamal Musiala, who himself would not look out of place in the Barca side Xavi is desperately attempting to mould.

Going down 2-0 to Bayern is far from irreparably damaging from Xavi's perspective, even if it does end an unbeaten start to the season spanning six matches. If ever there was a game to truly gauge how far his side have come this season, this was very much it.

It was only a little over nine months ago that Xavi described a 3-0 loss in this fixture as "a harsh reality" for his side. Just weeks into the job, the club legend acknowledged Europa League-bound Barca could not consider themselves among Europe's elite clubs at that point.

The performance produced by Barcelona in the first half on Tuesday offered plenty of promise. They may not be back at their very best just yet, but the signs of improvement on the back of a busy transfer window are clear to see.

And while this game did not quite follow the script from Lewandowski's perspective, the former fan favourite – who finished the match with seven attempts and an xG of 0.8 – will have a second chance to inflict some pain on his old side when they face off again at Camp Nou next month.

Yet on the basis of this latest tussle between the heavyweight clubs, it seems no matter what ploy Barca take – even if that means nabbing their opponents' best player – the outcome will remain the same. Now that is a harsh lesson.

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