FC Bayern München made giant strides towards a third UEFA Champions League final in four seasons with a memorable semi-final first-leg triumph against FC Barcelona.
The Bundesliga champions' record-breaking campaign reached fresh heights as Thomas Müller started and finished the scoring on a famous night in Munich. Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben added further goals to secure a landmark victory which inflicted a heaviest European away defeat on Barcelona and left the four-time trophy winners with a mountain to climb in next Wednesday's Camp Nou return.
After stepping out to a magnificently choreographed red-and-white display which spanned the entire arena, Bayern harnessed the home support and began powerfully, driving forward and creating the game's first opportunity just two minutes in. Javi Martínez's back-heel gave Robben time to set himself in the box only for the Dutchman to poke straight at Víctor Valdés.
Once the early advances subsided, Barcelona started to dominate possession and their incessant pressing forced Bayern to move the ball quickly out of defence. Though used to controlling matches, playing on the counterattack nevertheless seemed to suit the hosts, who looked dangerous on either flank and broke the deadlock in the 25th minute when Dante nodded Robben's cross back for Müller to head past Valdés at the near post.
Barça came close to equalising when Pedro Rodríguez's low cross was taken off the toes of the returning Lionel Messi in the centre by Dante, but otherwise Bayern continued to enjoy the upper hand, winning the duels in the middle and raiding with purpose.
The visitors regained their composure towards the interval, but were undone once more four minutes after it, as Bayern doubled their tally. Müller was again involved, heading Robben's corner into the danger zone for Gomez, deputising for the suspended Mario Mandžukić, to tap in. It was the perfect tonic for any home fans fearful of a Barcelona revival and inspired a flurry of further chances.
First Müller dragged past the post after a diagonal run. Franck Ribéry was then unable to apply the finish after being fed by Robben, who next rose above Alexis Sánchez to glance Bastian Schweinsteiger's free-kick wide.
The ball remained Blaugrana property for the most part, yet for all the intricate passing of Messi, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta, Bayern always had a body in the way. Marc Bartra might have pulled one back from close range, but Neuer made the save and the Bavarians' back line would not be threatened again.
Instead, Barcelona were caught out twice more before the end. Robben notched Bayern's third after a swift counterattack, drifting in from the right and slotting into the far corner, before Müller tapped in the fourth with eight minutes remaining. It signalled Barça's biggest defeat since May 2007 and reversed Bayern's 4-0 quarter-final loss at Camp Nou in 2009 – and, most crucially, took the German champions to the brink of a second successive final.