MUNICH - For once, Barcelona was on the wrong end of the kind of drubbing it so often inflicts on others. And with Bayern Munich in this kind of devastating form, even a fully fit Lionel Messi may not have made much of a difference.
Bayern humbled the Spanish powerhouse Tuesday, taking full advantage of Messi's sub-par performance as it overwhelmed Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg of their highly anticipated Champions League semifinal.
"We knew we were able to give them a good competition," Bayern winger Arjen Robben said. "This team (Barcelona) has dominated Europe over the last five years and if you beat them like this, I think you can be proud."
Barcelona had twice as much possession as Bayern but had very little to show for it against the new German champion's aggressive defence.
Thomas Mueller scored two goals as Bayern took a giant step toward a second consecutive final.
"When it comes to big games, I just go wild," Mueller said.
Mueller scored in the first half and added another after Mario Gomez and Robben had also scored in the second half. It was Barcelona's biggest loss in the Champions League since 1997, and largest in any competition since 2007.
Messi has been bothered by a hamstring injury for three weeks and was only declared fit to play shortly before the match. But the four-time FIFA player of the year was a pale shadow of himself.
"Leo tried really hard just to be here, he gave everything, but he couldn't do more," Barcelona's assistant coach Jordi Roura said.
With Messi struggling, none of his teammates were able to create much of anything either as they were effectively stifled by the disciplined Germans.
"You have to have a plan against Barcelona and the players executed it very well," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, who will be replaced by former Barcelona counterpart Pep Guardiola after this season. "Barcelona has a certain philosophy but my players knew exactly what they had to do on the field. We defended as a team, we really wanted not to concede a goal at home and we achieved that.
"At the same time, we were creative in attack and if we gain space, we can beat any team in the world. But Barcelona is still one of the best teams and there are still 90 minutes to play. We haven't qualified yet."
Barcelona beat Bayern 4-0 in a home match in 2009, and turned around a 2-0 deficit against AC Milan with a 4-0 win at home this season. But this Bayern team looks highly unlikely to allow a similar comeback.
Bayern clinched the Bundesliga title with six games to spare and appears ready to put behind the disappointment of the last season, when it lost the Champions League final at home to Chelsea on penalties.
"Wonders are difficult to achieve, 4-0 is an enormous result. We want to play with pride and we'll try (our) best," Roura said.
Barcelona had few chances, while Bayern used its size to outmuscle the Spanish side on set pieces.
Mueller headed in from close range in the 25th and added the second in the 82nd. Gomez netted in the 49th and Robben in the 73rd. Bayern used its size to outmuscled Barcelona on set pieces.
Bayern scored after a corner, from Franck Ribery. The ball rolled to the far post, where Robben crossed to Dante. The defender headed back across the goal and Mueller raced to head it in. Valdes got his hands on it but could not prevent the ball from sliding into the net.
The second Bayern goal also came after a corner, with Mueller at the far post rising over Daniel Alves and heading across the goal for Gomez to knock in from close range, although he might have been slightly offside.
"Some decisions went against us, but we did not lose because of the referee," Roura said.
Bayern's third was even more disputed as Robben went around Jordi Alba, who was blocked by Mueller in what seemed like a clear foul as the defender tried to chase the Dutchman, who slotted the ball inside the right post.
Ribery and David Alaba did the work for Bayern's fourth, with Alaba swinging in a pass for Mueller to knock in from close range.
The loss equaled Barcelona's biggest in the Champions League, a 4-0 defeat to Dynamo Kyiv in the group stage in 1997. It was the team's heaviest loss in any competition since an identical result at Getafe in the 2007 Copa del Rey semifinals.
"We can be proud, we played a terrific game, everybody," Robben said. "We fought for every meter and we didn't give them much space to play."
Bayern club president Uli Hoeness attended the match, as always wearing one of his red-and-white club scarves. Hoeness is under a tax evasion investigation, news that broke two days before the match and dominated German media coverage in the buildup.