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|Bayern Munich 2-1 Real Madrid: Mario Gómez settles an intense affair at the Allianz Arena|
“We will be coming back to Munich again”, were the words of Real Madrid’s José Mourinho following the final whistle at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena. His side may have lost 2-1 on the night after Mario Gómez stole in late to grab the winner. But, clearly, the Portuguese remains confident of advancing to the final in May.
Confident the colourful tactician may be, however, Real were far from their barnstorming best. Cristiano Ronaldo, who terrorises La Liga defences week in week out, did not perform to his usually lofty standards. Though he may have set up Mesut Özil for an invaluable away goal, it sufficed only to save his blushes after he made a hash of a great chance just moments before.
But, looking back at what was a most intriguing contest it is easy to see that Mourinho’s main objective was to earn an away goal; winning the game was not.
Still, in a contest that brought together two of the Europe’s traditional powers it was his side that started the brighter. The first real chance fell to Karim Benzema after seven minutes with the Frenchman seeing his effort tipped over the bar by Manuel Neuer.
The Germans eventually settled into the game and they were rewarded immediately following some pressure on the Real goal. Sergio Ramos, who was horrid throughout, allowed the ball to fall into the path of Franck Ribéry who slammed the ball home from 12 yards out.
The Frenchman’s goal put Jupp Heynckes’ side in the driving seat and they went on control the best part of the opening period. However, they failed to convert their greater share of possession into clear-cut chances and both teams went into the break having traded attempts on goal.
The second half started in much the same way the first half ended with the game being played at an intensely high level with little being given away by either side.
ESPN Soccernet writer Will Tidey summed things up nicely at half time when saying, “Bayern have got this tactically spot-on, attacking Madrid wide and not giving Cristiano Ronaldo an inch to goosestep into”.
Nevertheless, it was Real’s wide-attacking ace Cristiano Ronaldo that provided the assist for Mesut Ozil’s strike not even ten minutes into second period. It was not pretty but its importance in the context of the tie cannot be emphasised enough.
The goal however, still did not change the balance of the proceedings that were slightly tilted in favour of the home side. This was perhaps due to the Spanish giant’s being happy to settle for a scoring draw.
In fact, this became clearly evident when Mourinho withdrew Mesut Özil on 68 minutes for defender Marcelo. Given how Fabio Coentrão had been struggling to cope with the threat of Arjen Robben the substitution made some sense – especially after Heynckes introduced the more attacking Thomas Müller in place of the disappointing Bastian Schweinsteiger just minutes before.
The introduction of Marcelo set the tone for the remainder of the match; Bayern attacking with Real attempting to hold out for a draw and, possibly, steal another goal on the break – though it never looked very likely.
And so it unfolded as such with Bayern increasing the pressure on the Real’s rear-guard. Mario Gomez was at the forefront of everything positive going forward and his stature grew as the game progressed.
As tensions rose, Howard Webb had to repeatedly delve into his pocket as he brandished seven yellow cards in the last 45 minutes, six of which were for men in white. The weight of Bayern’s pressure was obviously agitating the Spanish.
With ten minutes remaining Mourinho went even more defensive when introducing Esteban Granero for Ángel Di María. This played into the hands of Heynckes’ side who had already done extremely well in nulling out Real’s main attacking channels. With the removal of Özil and Di María for two defensive players, this made the German’s task even more easier enabling them to storm forward in numbers.
Unrelenting, Bayern eventually forced home the winner just minutes later. Coentrão was again beaten down the left flank, this time by captain Philip Lahm, and the pint sized wingback got to the by-line before cutting the ball back for Gómez to guide the ball into the net.
Real’s frustration was summed up in a challenge by Marcelo on Müller. Nowhere near the ball, the Brazilian kicked out at the German international and on another night may have been given his marching orders. A scuffle involving both sets of players ensued as tensions boiled over.
Post-match Mourinho continued to say, “We don't need any crazy result in the return leg - we can win with a normal result and go through”, and few would argue that at home Real will or at least should be much better.
Nevertheless, Bayern’s Heynckes is equally confident that his men will grab an away goal too come the return leg when he was quoted, “The players know we will score in Madrid but we have to find the right balance between offence and defence.”
No matter what unfolds on April 25 the stage is set for what should be an intriguing finale to this heavyweight semi-final tie.