In today's Champions League 2014 first leg semifinals, Spanish Football's La Liga hosts Real Madrid defeated German Football's Bundesliga visitors Bayern Munich 1-0, at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Madrid, playing a 4-4-2, which has a clearly not-match-ready Cristiano Ronaldo, and benching the still-recovering-from-the-flu Gareth Bale, were outplayed from the visitors the entire first half. Bayern maintained 72% of possession, beating Real to divided balls and pressing them on their own half of the pitch.
But Madrid seemed up to the task of stopping Bayern as well as the middle was so well defended by Isco, Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, Angel di Maria, and also the Real defense, the wings seemed the only option to the Munich team. Ironically, Arjen Robben, perhaps their best offensive weapon, found himself double-teamed whenever he became Bayern's wide offensive outlet. Time after time the Madrid defense stopped Bayern--sometimes cold, other tines with last gasp lunges or blocks, but never requiring a real save from goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Thus went the initial 18 minutes.
Then came part two of Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti's strategy. The counter, a Madrid specialty since Jose Mourinho's days, was in full gear and on the 19th minute Fabio Coentrao found Ronaldo at about the midfield line. The striker, incapable of do his usual sprints received, held and after that delivered an ideal lead pass to his Portuguese teammate about the left wing. Coentrao's cross found Karim Benzema open at the far post for that easy store. The resulting score line, Real 1, Bayern 0, was truly up against the run of play.
But then the goal inspired Real and on the 25:46 mark another counter saw Ronaldo the people receiving a bouncing cross from Benzema, just concerning the penalty spot, as well as the Portuguese star miss-hit it in the crossbar when a simple downward touch might have ensured the other score.
At the 40:29 minute mark di Maria was the recipient of the final spread another nice counter but he sent the ball skyward from very close range along with only Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer to get over.
It was clear by half-time that Ancelotti had played all his pieces well while Bayern coach, Pep Guardiola, had assumed his superior forces would simply show up and carry the afternoon. Real's formation must have been a surprise as was Ronaldo's walk out of onto the pitch.
As the second half began what each coach could do to out-fox another seemed the question to resolve, players had already shown they can follow each leader's directions with a tee.
The first chess move was Ancelotti's as they substituted Gareth Bale for Ronaldo to wide applause. Then Guardiola countered bringing in offensive players for midfielders and taking Frank Ribbery website out. The gamble, adding so many attacking players rescued Bayern from an impending Real possession take back. And it also provide Bayern with lots of more scoring opportunities.
At the 83rd minute Bayern's golden chance came. Mario Goetze was open inside the box, in order to the right of goal leading to two yards beyond your goalie's box, and took an area blank shot at goal going right to left. But the best keeper in the world, the one who always reacts so fast even when not called upon all game long, made the save and kept the score line intact for the Real Madrid win.
It might have been too little for Madrid. Bayern is unquestionably worth two goals in the home. But Ancelotti is depending on both of his stars being healthy and ready longer play in the second leg in Munich. It should be a game worthy of a championship final and not a semifinal.