Robben wings in again for Bayern

THE conqueror of Fiorentina and Manchester United, Arjen Robben, again produced the moment of individual brilliance that settled a Champions League game, although the former Chelsea winger’s 70th-minute winner was just one of several talking points.

From Lyon’s 500-mile coach ride to Germany for the semi-final first leg, to the controversial dismissal of their centre-half Jeremy Toulalan early in the second half, this was an evening of regret and missed opportunity for the French, although it was the first half red card shown to Bayern’s Franck Ribery that might have broader implications.

Ribery was dismissed after 36 minutes for a stamp on the ankle of Lyon forward Lisandro Lopez, a challenge which looked worse on repeated viewing but which Italian referee Roberto Rosetti needed to see but once before correctly showing the Frenchman an automatic red.

It hinted, broadly, at the mental turmoil being endured by Ribery following reports in his native France that he has quizzed by magistrates in the country over allegations that he had sex with an underage prostitute.

Out for 50-plus minutes of the first leg and, of course, the return leg in his homeland next week, the further involvement of Ribery and Bayern in this year’s tournament looked tenuous, although the player’s concerns extend beyond a football competition. Yet Bayern, who have lived dangerously in winning their two ties in the knockout stages of the competition on away goals, should have had this semi-final well under control inside the opening 20 minutes on their own turf, before Robben’s winner.

After 11 minutes, a Robben cross found Daniel van Buyten in a promising position only for Belgian to volley over erratically, sparking a concerted spell of Bayern pressure.

A Ribery corner a minute later was tipped over by Hugo Lloris at the expense of another corner from which the French winger picked out Bastian Schweinsteiger who should have capitalised on Lloris’ poor handling but could only send a free header curling beyond the far post. Schweinsteiger nearly made amends soon after with a lofted pass forward that Thomas Muller headed wide, at full stretch, before Ribery wasted the best chance to date, ghosting past Cris to create space but only succeeding in sending a low shot wide.

Ribery responded with a delightful hanging cross-field pass which Robben controlled for Ivica Olic who produced the worst miss of the evening with a woeful miscued effort from 10 yards.

Muller shot over, from the edge of the area, just after 20 minutes but, within a quarter of an hour, Ribery had been dismissed. Suitably buoyed, Lyon finally forced Hans-Jorg Butt into his first save, two minutes before the break, with Kim Kallstrom unleashing a magnificent 30-yard left-foot blast which the German keeper kept out spectacularly.

Yet it was Bayern who threatened first, and second, after the restart with Croatian Daniel Pranjic almost catching out Lloris with a first-time shot that the keeper fumbled behind; Robben’s hanging cross allowing Schweinsteiger to head wide and Philipp Lahm powering into the area and squaring for Muller, who stumbled with the goal beckoning.

To add to Bayern’s momentum Toulalan earned two bookings inside three minutes, tripping Robben and then being unfortunate when Rosetti judged he had gone into a challenge on Schweinsteiger with his foot up. Now 10 versus 10, a finely-balanced tie shifted back the way of Bavaria with Robben soon capitalising on a mistake from Jean Makoun and shooting just beyond the far post.

Schweinsteiger shot well wide and sub Mario Gomez headed hopelessly at the goalkeeper from a magnificent Robben cross. The Germans needed something special to shake them from their attacking lethargy and who better to provide that than Robben who took advantage of Lyon allowing him space dead centre of goal, some 40 yards out, and beat a defender before sending a magnificent left-foot shot past Lloris via the slightest deflection off team mate Muller.

A late Robben shot looked destined for the bottom corner until Lloris saved at full stretch, one of many misses which may prove costly.

Subs for Bayern: Gomez for Pranjic 63, Altintop for Robben 85, Tymoschuk for Olic 45.

Subs for Lyon: Govou for Delgado 78, Makoun for Pjanic 55, Bastos for Ederson 70.

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