The Spaniard, who built his aura of invincibility during four remarkable years at Barcelona in which he won the Champions League twice, has appeared a little more fallible recently amid criticism of Bayern’s style of play and a perceived under-achievement on the European stage. But this was a landmark moment in his new career.
Two defeats to Real Madrid in last year’s Champions League, when Bayern were defending the trophy, had this season been compounded by a 3-1 away defeat in Portugal that threatened to send the German side out for a second year in a row.
So although Bayern are 12 points clear with five matches remaining in the Bundesliga and also through to face Dortmund in the German Cup semi-finals next week, the pre-match talk was still about Guardiola’s future as English media linked him with a move to Manchester City.
“I know which club I am at, it isn’t enough to win the Bundesliga and the cup. Only a treble is enough for a club like Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich,” the Barca legend said in Monday’s pre-match press conference, while Franz Beckenbauer, who said only it was ‘’too drastic” to say the Spaniard had failed in Germany, was hardly glowing in his support for a coach who earlier in his career seemed almost uncriticisable.
That sheen, however, is back after a performance in the Allianz Arena that may soon be described as one of the defining moments of Guardiola’s career. His team, quite simply, were irresistibly ruthless as they destroyed their opponents in a first-half which saw the home team lead 5-0 at the break.
“We just witnesses something miraculous,” said Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge last night.
Porto coach Julen Lopetegui had no complaints. “You have to congratulate them. They were magnificent in the first half.”
Throughout that time Guardiola was a ball of energy on the sidelines, the suit jacket quickly discarded and the trousers ripped as he animatedly passed directions to his players; and he was admirably rewarded for his efforts.
Thiago, from a Bernat cross, and Boateng provided early headers, putting Bayern 2-0 up by the 22nd minute, before Lewandkowsi headed a superb third, Muller inevitably added a low finish (which makes him the highest-scoring German in Champions League history with 27 goals) and Lewandowski made it 5-0 with five minutes of the first half still to play. The Pole’s shimmy before finishing exquisitely underlined this was a breathtaking spell of football – all without injured Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery – that suggests Guardiola has been able to add German ruthlessness to Spanish flair and precision.
Inevitably, and to the obvious frustration of Guardiola, the game was more even after the break as Jackson Martinez found a way to pull a goal back. But once Porto went down to 10 men, Marcano off for a second yellow in the 87th minute, Xabi Alonso finished the job with a beautiful free-kick to complete a perfect night for Guardiola and a perfect riposte to his critics. Man City’s dream of tempting him to England is looking rather more unlikely.
Neuer, Rafinha (Rode 72), Boateng, Badstuber, Bernat, Lahm, Alonso, Thiago (Dante 90), Muller, Lewandowski, Gotze (Weiser 86).
Fabiano, Reyes (Ricardo Pereira 32), Maicon, Marcano, Martins Indi, Herrera, Casemiro, Torres, Quaresma (Ruben Neves 46), Martinez, Brahimi (Evandro 67).
Martin Atkinson (England)