Bayern didn't need to be good vs. Sevilla but they have to get sharper
As the goals were flying in, the crowd slowly whipped themselves into a frenzy. 1-0. A bit of hope. 2-0. Could it be? 3-0! An eruption of joy and Schadenfreude: grown men hugging, waving fists in the air, doing little dances on the spot.
On a big European night, nothing excites the locals in Munich more than Real Madrid, their bogey team, getting beaten. It didn't matter so much on Wednesday that it was Juventus, not Bayern, who were scoring against Cristiano Ronaldo et al. The 3,000 travelling fans from Sevilla also joined in the celebrations each time the two video screens lit up with the barely credible news from the Bernabéu.
Ten minutes from the end of Wednesday's fairly uneventful 0-0 Champions League quarterfinal second-leg draw at the Allianz Arena, injured midfielder Arturo Vidal, a former Juventino, climbed up a few stairs to the press box, sat down with Chilean journalists and watched the Madrid game on a laptop. It was obvious that nothing of note was going to happen in the Bavarian capital.
The stadium announcer pointedly failed to update the ground when Ronaldo put paid to one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League with his 98th minute penalty. News of the disappointment was only relayed after the final whistle had long gone in Munich.
Coming so quick on the heels of Barcelona's sensational elimination at the hands of Roma, Real Madrid crashing out would have left the Bavarians feeling much better about their chances of lifting the European Cup for a sixth time. (In the four seasons since their 2013 triumph in Wembley, they were eliminated four times by Spanish opposition.) But even without a satisfactory denouement in the Spanish capital, the events in Madrid and Rome markedly increased Bayern's sense of wellbeing. They gave their own rather uneven performance against Sevilla an instant air of respectability. What would otherwise have been a frustrating home game with a lack of clear-cut chances and guile suddenly looked prudent and controlled.
"We calmed down the game in the second half and played it out in a focussed way," Jupp Heynckes noted contently. "You have to draw these kind of games to go through to the next round."
Against not exactly elite opponents, you can win these kind of games too, of course. Heynckes' line-up with only two-and-a-half central midfielders -- Javi Martinez, James Rordiguez, the roving Thomas Muller -- spoke of attacking intent but in practice, Bayern played like a side managing a lead rather than chasing one. At times in the first half, their cautious stance verged on passivity. A better team might have punished them.
"Maybe we could have been more courageous in some moments, maybe we were a bit too passive at times," Muller said. "But these are details that don't always go right. On the whole, we didn't underestimate them and we weren't too afraid to commit [men forward]. The attitude was right. We helped each other out a lot."
The Germany forward added that his team "know what we can do" in the competition after two of the big favourites, Barca and Manchester City, had faltered. But were Bayern really more the wiser as to their true potential after negotiating the relatively straightforward ties against Besiktas and Sevilla?
"We might not have been able to compare ourselves with one of the very top teams but we do know our strengths and weaknesses," answered Muller. "You saw this week that all teams have all kinds of problems over two legs. I'm sure that we have enough quality and bite to go very far."
Bavarian confidence notwithstanding, his teammates cautioned that Bayern still needed to up their game to go all the way in Europe. "We have to go to the next level," said Arjen Robben, whose runs had produced very little end-product.
Mats Hummels felt that the events of the week should be seen "as a warning shot for the future," ensuring that Bayern will take none of the remaining ties in the DFB Pokal or Champions League as foregone conclusions. To that effect, Muller quickly dismissed suggestions that Bayern should now be seen as favourites to win the competition with a typical Muller quip. "The Champions League has so many different ingredients," he said. "Let's see who'll cook the soup in the end."
Bayern can take heart from the fact that no-one expected them to make it this far when they lost 3-0 in Paris under Carlo Ancelotti. They might not have any firm idea how they shape up in relation to Madrid, Liverpool and Roma but they're the only team to arrive in the semifinals not having flirted with elimination at some stage of the previous round. They've had it easy because Heynckes' risk-elimination strategy, a focus on efficiency rather than total domination, has managed to make it easy for their superior quality to come to the fore.
Whoever will come next will be wary of this Bayern team's ability to get very good results without necessarily playing very well. Plenty of European triumphs -- especially those won by Bayern in the mid-1970s -- were built on that very premise.
Raphael Honigstein is ESPN FC's German football expert and author of "Bring the Noise: The Jurgen Klopp Story." Follow: @honigstein