In a matter of 82 minutes, Bayern Munich dismantled all of the mythical aura around Barcelona and proved that this iteration of the Blaugrana is just another football team. The Bavarians were as close to perfect as a team of humans can be on Tuesday night, demolishing Barcelona, 4-0.
Bayern asserted themselves quickly, generating the first excellent chance of the match after just 80 seconds of play. Arjen Robben set up Javi Martinez during an impressive exchange, but Victor Valdes came up big, rushing out and blocking Martinez's shot.
There was a shout for a penalty in the 15th minute, when a shot by Phillip Lahm hit off the arm of Gerard Pique. He was turning away and certainly did not play the ball with his arm, but it was away from his body and it would have been tough to fault the referee if it was given. Bayern didn't have any complaints about the way the game was going for long, though, as they would find the first goal of the game just 10 minutes later.
Predictably, the Bayern opener came while their big players were forward for a set piece. Robben provided the delivery with a cross to the back post for Dante, who rose up above Dani Alves easily to nod towards the back post. Thomas Müller was waiting and got on the end of it to direct goalwards. His header wasn't the best and went right into Victor Valdes, but the Barcelona goalkeeper was off-balance and couldn't keep the ball out of the net.
Barcelona hit back with a decent attack a few minutes later, with Dante just barely cutting out a ball that would have led to a tap-in by Lionel Messi in the 29th minute, but it was the only truly promising move of the half for the Blaugrana. Bayern were pressing forward immediately afterwards, and had another shout for a handball in the 32nd minute. Again, it would have been harsh on the visitors if the penalty was given, as the ball hit the inadvertently extended hand of Alexis Sanchez, who knew nothing about it and certainly didn't deny a goal-scoring opportunity.
Given the extent to which they were steamrolled in the first half, Barcelona were probably quite pleased to go into the dressing room down by just one goal. Unfortunately, any halftime adjustments that Tito Vilanova made failed to keep Bayern from resuming their dominance. It took them just four minutes of play in the second half to double their lead.
The second goal was a near carbon-copy of the first. On an in-swinging corner to the back post, Müller rose up above his defender to win a header and nod back across goal, doing for Mario Gomez what Dante did for him. Gomez was in perfect position and applied the easy finish to put Bayern ahead 2-0.
Nothing changed for Barcelona in the minutes immediately afterwards, as the Bavarians continued to pile on the pressure. Franck Ribery shot just wide in the 55th minute off a great run and pass by Robben, and Robben missed just wide with a header three minutes later. They continued to be well on top of the game, but Jupp Heynckes decided to change his tactics in the 70th minute, taking off Gomez, his lone center forward, for defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo.
While that appeared to be a very defensive move, it didn't hinder Bayern's attack at all. Just three minutes after Gomez's removal, Robben added a third for Bayern. It was a controversial one, and probably shouldn't have counted due to an unspotted foul by Müller, but there's no taking away from the finish. Robben cut inside from the right wing and got plenty of space to do so when Müller cleaned out his marker, Jordi Alba. He still had plenty of work to do, though, and placed a spectacular shot to the far post from an extremely narrow angle, putting his team three goals ahead.
Marc Bartra had a chance to get his team back into the tie with what would have been a huge away goal in the 76th minute, but botched a chance on a free kick. Martinez ran into his own man, allowing Bartra to run free onto a ball from Xavi, but didn't set himself well when he turned to shoot and screwed his shot a mile over the bar.
In the 80th minute, Müller nearly added a brace, but was closed down by Valdes and took a knock from the process. He tried to curl the ball around the keeper, but Valdes inadvertently made contact with Müller while diving to make the save. The Bayern forward immediately called for a substitution, but was moving fine a minute later and, to the shock of even the Bayern ultras, completed a brace.
David Alaba set up the fourth goal, playing a great cross low into the box. Valdes couldn't get there and Muller beat the entire Barca defense to tap in his second goal of the evening. He celebrated his goal, then instantly jogged off the pitch to be replaced by Claudio Pizarro.
The third goal was an important one in the tie and a concerning one for the Blaugrana, but the fourth appeared to truly break their spirit. Coming back from 3-0 down is extremely difficult, but certainly not impossible for a team of Barcelona's quality. A comeback from 4-0 down might never be seen in the Champions League, and Barcelona looked to know the tie was over at that point. They picked up a handful of yellow cards after that, including one for Alba for bouncing a ball off the face of Robben that will force him to miss the second leg through suspension.
This was, without question, an absolute masterclass for Bayern. While some might ask what happened to Barcelona and why they've regressed, this result had more to do with Bayern's quality than Barcelona's shortcomings. It was a simply flawless performance, the likes of which might not be seen for a very long time.