Real Madrid Slapped Around By A Strong Bayern Munich Side In Germany- the Germans head to Spain with a one goal advantage
Spanish giants Real Madrid and the seemingly unstoppable Bayern Munich faced off at the Allianz Arena in the first leg of their semi-final fixture in the UEFA Champions League. Real Madrid had had an arguably easy ride on through to this semi-final stage but they were about to hit a speed bump as their defense was tested for nearly the full ninety minute duration of the match.
Real Madrid were put into a precarious defensive position for the first time in this entire Champions League campaign, finding the Munich attack to be a bit of a handful. Fueled by the chants of their fans that echoed through the Allianz Arena, Bayern Munich fearlessly took on the Madrid defense and broke up their midfield attacks, forcing them to pass around their half more than they are accustomed too in the opening minutes. Strong hands and good reactions from Neuer kept Benzema’s early shot out of the back of the net but Real Madrid were starting to find their attacking feet and started to put pressure on Bayern’s young defensive line. 23-year-old center backs Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng and 19-year-old left back David Alaba were not phased by the quick flicks and runs from Ronaldo and Di Maria on the wing and did a good job of calmly breaking up the attacks from the middle through Benzema and Ozil. Meanwhile, at the other defensive front, Coentrao, Arbeloa and Pepe were having some difficulties dealing with Ribery, Kroos and Gomez. With fifteen minutes gone in the first half, Franck Ribery was convinced he had a penalty appeal. Maybe he was just fooled by his own dive, but Howard Webb was unimpressed and instead opted to wave play on as Bayern players swarmed around him.
The injustice had no effect on the Frenchman, however because just moments later, he slammed the ball through the legs of two of the Madrid defenders and past Casillas. There was no way the Spanish number one goalie could have seen the shot coming as Ribery shot from the top of the box and gave his side the 1-0 lead. Madrid were slow to probe for a response, trying still to build from the back but their efforts were in vain. Bayern Munich made them look like just another Bundesliga side as they easily broke up their passes and then brought the ball up the field again. The Spanish visitors were able to make chances for themselves. Cristiano Ronaldo expectantly got a good shot off but Neuer did his homework and knew to expect long-range efforts from the Portuguese winger and was able to keep them at bay. At halftime, after both goalies had made several saves and both attacking forces had created several good looks at goal, the scoreline was 1-0 in favor of the home side much to the frustration of Jose Mourinho and his men.
Surely Jose Mourinho didn’t deliver a light halftime speech as his team sat in the locker room down by a goal for the first time in the 2011/2012 UEFA Champions League campaign. Coming out of the break, the visitors tried to possess as best they could and attack the Bayern goal but the Germans were able to halt their efforts thanks to some disciplined defending from the young backline, who had been criticized after their shaky starts in the 1/8 and 1/4 finals. Real Madrid were finally to break the backline of the home side with some cheeky footwork from Ronaldo, some good passing from the Madrid attacking men and a clean finish from Ozil. The slate was clean on the night but on aggregate the Spanish side were at an advantage, netting an away goal. Attacking brilliance from Arjen Robben and equally impressive defending from Pepe denied Bayern a second in the 58th minute and Alaba’s follow-up shot went well over the bar. Ronaldo took the ball down to the other end, passing it off to Di Maria and then Ozil before Kroos committed the tactical foul.
Bayern Munich were quick to react to the steady pressure from Madrid, Gomez forcing Casillas to come off of his line and commit to a loose through ball. Real Madrid struggled to cope with the pressure from the home side’s midfield, surely not accustomed to the lack of dominance from their own attacking players. In the 69th minute, Mourinho replaced goal scorer Ozil with the more defensive player Marcelo. Marcelo was almost immediately called upon as Bayern Munich earned themselves a free kick but it was blasted over the bar. Di Maria was then sacrificed for the more central player of Esteban Granero.
In the last minute of regular time, Mario Gomez scored in dramatic style as he slid into the box to meet the cross from captain Phillip Lahm. The goal was inevitable for the visitors as they had struggled to shut down the rampant Munich strike force. The closing minutes were filled with controversy as Thomas Muller made a meal of a clumsy tackle from Marcelo. Phillip Lahm would argue that the tackle was worthy of a red in his post-match interview, and it was definitely an offense worthy of a card, but it brought an unnecessary soap-opera style close to the first leg of the semi-finals in Munich.
Gomez put his side level on aggregate and gave the home fans something to cheer about. With the Bundesliga title growing progressively out of reach as Borussia Dortmund climb higher to the top Real Madrid are going to have to find their feet again if they wish to defend their top spot in La Liga on Saturday at the Camp Nou as they face off against rivals Barcelona and the only other contenders for the top spot in the Spanish top flight.