Bayern qualify with stuttering statement

Müller made his mark with a priceless equaliser in Southern Spain. Photo FC Bayern Munich.
Bayern Munich needed a late equaliser from Thomas Müller in Valencia to seal qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League. 

The Spanish side, languishing in 8th spot in La Liga, are a tough team to beat on home soil with Manchester United the last side to beat them at 'Camp de Mestalla' over two years ago. 'Los Che' were reduced to ten men after 32 minutes when defender Antonio Barragan was dismissed for a hefty challenge on Austrian David Alaba, leaving top English official Howard Webb with no choice but to brandish a straight red card. Indeed, Alaba was lucky to escape serious injury from Barragan's nasty lunge. Despite having a man advantage for close to an hour, Bayern were never able to get into their stride against a resolute home side, who to their credit raised their game impressively. Bayern were so close to a defeat when Sofiane Feghouli put Valencia ahead on 77 minutes. The Algerian's mazy, dribbling run ended with his effort taking a wicked deflection off Dante, leaving Manuel Neuer stranded in the Bayern goal.

It's not the first time that Bayern have gone a goal down this season and, in an equally fitting manner, this shock set-back produced an almost immediate reaction from coach Jupp Heynckes and his side. The fit-again Mario Gomez was introduced for Franck Ribery on 79 minutes and made a timely difference. Moments later, Bayern captain Philipp Lahm whipped in a cross from the right, Gomez expertly flicked into the path of the on-rushing Müller whose shot took a slight deflection before nestling into the corner of the net. 

It was to prove a priceless equaliser for the record German champions, installing them as group leaders as well as guaranteeing them qualification the for knock-out round. Bayern's qualification is bigger than just getting the job done though. It's proving that last year still burns brightly in their eyes and that this year, they want it to burn brightly in their hearts. Their victors from last year's final are finding the process of defending their title far more difficult than they expected. Grounds for concern perhaps for the Bayern hierarchy are the two misfiring performances in Nuremberg and Valencia, which have seen the Bavarians' bandwagon stutter a little.

This is, after all, a club that cannot comprehend not winning with a man advantage. Certainly chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge shares this unease: ''We can be satisfied with the result but not with the game. If you have an extra man for an hour but end up being relieved it's finished 1-1, that isn't satisfactory. At the moment, there's too much playing for a result for my liking. I'd already spotted this against Nurnberg. We need to get into gear and hit the gas again. We have a tough week coming up with games against Hannover, Freiburg and Dortmund.'' Comprehensive victories against Lille and Kaiserslautern are not doing enough to convince the majority that those cracks in the squad are healing. Heynckes himself needs no reminding of this fact and can't be too delighted that every time his side don't find top gear, one member of the establishment publically reminds him of it.

Belarusians BATE Borisov are the visitors to Munich for the final group game, against whom Bayern will be looking to exact revenge for a shock defeat in Minsk in September - a loss which suddenly left advancement from a supposedly easy group looking very precarious. This game may prove another opportunity for Heynckes to prove the strength in depth he has in his squad after BATE's surprise 2-0 defeat to Lille last night, a result which puts the Belarusian's out of a chance of making the last 16.

A win for the Bavarians against the European novices will seal top spot in the group and in all likelihood ensure they, as top seeds, face weaker opposition once the knockout stage comes around in 2013.

Valencia: Guaita - Barragan, Rami, Ricardo Costa, Cissokho - Feghouli, Parejo (75' Jonas), Tino Costa, Guardado (86' Valdez) - Banega (80' Albelda) - Soldado

Bayern Munich: Neuer - Lahm, Dante, Badstuber, Alaba - Martinez, Schweinsteiger - Müller, Kroos (66' Shaqiri), Ribery (79' Gomez) - Pizarro (66' Mandzukic)

Goals: 1-0 Feghouli (77'), 1-1 Müller (82')
Referee: Howard Webb (England)
Attendance: 44,000
Red Cards: Barragan


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