Real Madrid 2 Bayern Munich 1: Lessons from a dramatic semi-final
What did we learn from Bayern Munich's 3-1 penalty shoot-out victory over Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final?
Ronaldo stars, Gómez shackled
Much was made of the battle between scoring sensations Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Gómez in the build-up to this showdown at the Bernabeu, but it was the Portuguese forward who had the better of things during normal time. The £80m man made a dream start after netting twice in the first 15 minutes of the game, taking his tally to 56 goals in just 51 appearances this season. Gómez had notched 40 in all competitions before the match, including the winner in last week’s first leg, but he failed to deliver the goods in the return match. When the chances came for the German striker, he proved to be hesitant and was easily crowded out by Madrid’s defence.
Attack was the best form of defence for both sides
It was evident for the most part of this encounter that the margins would be wafer-thin between two of the greatest names in European football. Bayern captain Phillip Lahm started the trend for Real’s second goal, when he left Ronaldo far too much room, as the winger coolly slotted home. Incredibly that goal was the 157th of campaign for the Los Blancos and their 34th in the Champions League. The defensive deficiencies weren’t just consigned to the German side though. Portugal defender Pepe struggled to handle the physical threat of Gómez, with his foul on the forward illustrating the point. Despite tightening up their ranks during a chess game of a second half, both sides proved to be most dangerous going forward, especially on the counter-attack.
There was no doubt over the talents of the 23-year-old midfielder but he proved that there was more to his game during a match-up against many of his international colleagues. He started proceedings well by supplying Ronaldo with a sumptuous through-ball for the opener and he went to demonstrate a physical side to his armoury. On many occasions, Mesut Özil easily shrugged his opponents of the ball before pushing his side on in the search for a winning goal, which ultimately never came for Mourinho’s men.
All square in the battle of the keepers
With an array of attacking talent on offer, it was abundantly clear that both goalkeepers would have to be at their best. At opposite ends of their careers, Iker Casillas and Manuel Neuer both showed that they are two of the top shot stoppers in Europe. Madrid captain Casillas proved his undoubted class, especially during the first half, as he came to the aid of his rickety defence under pressure from the German side’s attacking armoury. Before the game, he had made over 100 saves in his outings and this amount continued to grow, with saves from Gómez. Neuer had a shaky start inside the opening seconds as he mis-kicked and his positioning was called into question for Real’s second, before recovering well as the minutes ticked by. The German keeper, much like his vastly experienced counterpart at the other end, had a relatively quiet second half and extra time period as neither side created any golden opportunities.
Bayern show the German spirit from the spot
With nothing between them for 210 minutes, the cruel mistress of penalties intervened to complete the line-up for the final on 19 May. When it comes to penalty shoot-outs, the Germans normally reign supreme, and this one was no different. Bayern looked to be in pole position when David Alaba and Gómez made no mistake from the spot and Neuer pulled off a pair of fantastic saves from Ronaldo, who had converted his last 25 from 12-yards, and substitute Kaká. Casillas wasn’t about to be overshadowed, as he matched his opposite number’s heroics. First, the Spanish stopper made a fantastic stop to his left from Toni Kroos’ kick before he brilliantly re-adjusted to palm away Lahm’s effort. Xabi Alonso gave Los Blancos a chance in between the saves before Sergio Ramos sent that hope flying high into the sky of the Spanish capital, with a horrendous kick. Bastian Schweinsteiger, one of four German players to step up to the mark for the visitors, was handed the task of completing the job for Jupp Heyneckes’ side. The experienced midfielder sunk the hopes of the Madrid faithful, and booked a dream date with destiny for the men from Munich. Their attentions now turning to Chelsea, and they will become the first side since Roma in 1984 to play a European Cup final on home turf.