Bayern can’t do it without drama in one of their fateful stadiums, Real Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. Sometimes triumph like in 2012 when they advanced on penalties, mostly tragedy. This time the elimination in the Champions League semi-finals due to the 1:2 at Real fell into the category of disaster. The Munich team was only a few minutes away from taking the lead to reach the final in London, a repeat of the Bundesliga duel against Borussia Dortmund from 2013.

A “minimal mole” and, from Munich’s perspective, a maximum refereeing disaster left Bayern in a state of shock. First, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer made a mistake in the 88th minute with a 1-0 lead when he let a set-up shot from Vinicius Junior ricochet forward. Joker Joselu used the rebound. “There was a tiny bit of a mole in the space,” Neuer complained and said, shaking his head: “Brutal.” And if things don’t work out, there’s bad luck too. “It was extremely unfortunate, everything came together in the last few minutes,” complained an angry Thomas Tuchel. The outgoing Bayern coach struggled with fate, saying: “We were almost over the finish line. We don’t really understand why it wasn’t enough.”

At least not in overtime. When stoppage time had already expired and Bayern, with the courage of desperation, had hit one last ball forward, it was suddenly in the hosts’ goal after a shot from Matthijs de Ligt. 2:2 – but referee Szymon Marciniak blew his whistle immediately because his linesman had immediately ruled it offside. This meant that the VAR could no longer intervene. In such tight situations, referees usually let the game continue to wait to see if a goal is scored. The calibrated line is then drawn and an offside position is checked. Not in this scene. The Bavarians were stunned and furious. Long after the final whistle.

“The decision is a disaster, an absolute disaster,” said Tuchel in outrage, referring to Joselu’s 2-1 winning goal at the start of stoppage time, which was only confirmed by the VAR check: “They let Real Madrid’s second goal go continue playing. It would have been the same. The game scene has to be played to the end, that’s the rule, especially when it’s so close to the goal. The referee makes the second mistake . The referee doesn’t have to blow his whistle, he can just as well say: ‘Hey, wait a minute, I’ll wait for the scene and then we can all watch it together.’ That’s what happened with the second goal a violation of the rules. This is against every rule of modern football.” And then, out of emotion, Tuchel followed up with an accusation that didn’t go down well with the hosts: “That wouldn’t have happened on the other side.” De Ligt, who was prevented from scoring, took a similar line: “I find the scene unbelievable. I can’t understand it, you have to play through it (editor). I don’t want to say that Madrid are always lucky, but that makes the difference today.”

Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, who was employed at FC Bayern from 2016 and was fired again at the start of his second season in September 2017, countered: “The last scene is very clear. Maybe it’s offside and we stop playing. They complain – and we also let ourselves down because of Nacho’s goal.” Ancelotti was referring to the 1-1 equalizer given by Nacho in the 72nd minute, which Marciniak conceded after checking the scene himself. Rightly so. Real’s defender previously had both hands in his opponent Kimmich’s face and pushed him to the ground.

The fact that the referee afterwards admitted the mistake and apologized to Bayern could not alleviate the initial anger. “We can’t buy shit from that,” raged sports director Max Eberl, who followed up with deep disappointment: “We were all in favor of a German final. Everyone except the Polish referees.”

But even this polemic cannot erase the fact that Bayern are without a title for the first time since the 2011/12 season. A turbulent, sometimes chaotic year came to a fitting conclusion in this rollercoaster game in Madrid. The bottom line is that the elimination is deserved; the Munich team, who were plagued by injuries (Serge Gnabry and Harry Kane) and cramps (Jamal Musiala and Aleksandar Pavlovic), would probably not have survived an extension in the supercharged Bernabéu steam boiler unscathed. But believing in it at least caresses the Bavarian soul, and anger is good. Because over time, when the adrenaline has worn off, the Bavarians may be able to see the good in the bad: hope.

This shock, the end in Madrid, could be a beginning. Bayern want to go into the coming season with anger in their stomachs, a new coach (who, by the way, they didn’t find in the 48 hours in Spain) and a team that has been renewed through transfers. Into a season that should lead to the second “final at home” in the Allianz Arena in 2025. CEO Jan-Christian Dreesen was the first to point this out in his speech at the opening of the midnight banquet. Dreesen began by speaking of a “very, very painful defeat. We played an extraordinary Champions League season. Now we don’t want to be sore losers and yet this decision (the referee, editor) simply feels wrong. That’s why it’s even more bitter.” Dreesen continued: “We have been through such valleys in the past, through deep ditches. What sets us apart as FC Bayern and the Bayern family is that we come back stronger than before after such bitter defeats. That’s what, “What we always call our Mia-san-Mia reflex is what guides us forward, even on a day as difficult as today.”

In the “Platea” event hall, a former cinema with gourmet cuisine on the Plaza de Colón, Dreesen recalled the horror film from 2012, when Bayern were unable to win their first “final at home” against Chelsea FC despite absurd superiority and then tragically failed in the penalty shootout. The day after, according to Dreesen, Thomas Müller texted the team chat: “Chin up, guys! That was yesterday! What happened yesterday hurts a lot. But next year we’ll fight back!”

Is history repeating itself? Without 2012, the Champions League triumph at Wembley in 2013 against BVB would probably not have been possible. The “death of a second”, the two late goals conceded, through which Bayern tragically lost 2-1 to Manchester United in the Barcelona final in 1999, was followed two years later by winning the pot in Milan against FC Valencia.

So Dreesen shouted into the microphone in Madrid: “And that’s what I want to say to you today: Keep your head up, team! You played fantastically! You can’t blame yourself! Our goal must be to look forward from tomorrow We’ll have the final at home next year, that’s our big goal now. Then hopefully we’ll reach the final and compete successfully.”