Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich, Champions League semifinal 2nd leg: How the hosts held on to make the final
Zinedine Zidane knows a thing or two about winning in football. As a player, he was one of the most successful in the history of the game, winning a World Cup and a European Cup for the French national side and the Champions League for Real Madrid in a glorious career. But his short managerial career is starting to eclipse even those wonderful achievements he had as a player.
He has guided Real Madrid to their 3rd consecutive Champions League final, a feat no club has achieved since Marcelo Lippi’s great Juventus of the mid-'90s. Incidentally, Zidane himself used to be a key player in that Juventus side.
However, Zidane and his Real Madrid side needed considerable luck to scrape past a profligate Bayern at the Bernabeu last night. Needing a win to make it to the final, Bayern started with a 4-3-3 formation with James Rodriguez, Robert Lewandowski and Franck Ribery upfront. Their cause was not harmed at all when Joshua Kimmich fired them ahead in the 3rd minute after getting the ball inside the penalty box from a deflection by Sergio Ramos.
Real retaliated and a wonderful cross by Marcelo was met by Karim Benzema to level things in the 11th minute. What followed was a series of Bayern attacks, primarily through the left wing with the fantastic David Alaba behind almost each one of them. Ribery, Tolisso and Rodiguez had their shots saved by the magnificent Keylor Navas and Raphael Varane shielded his goal like a man possessed. Real went into counter-attacks at times and Cristiano Ronaldo, almost invisible otherwise, had a shot at goal that was saved by Ulreich, the Bayern custodian.
Just before half-time, Marcelo blocked a shot from Kimmich that denied Bayern from taking a lead into halftime. One can remember that Real benefitted by some controversial decisions against Bayern in the last year’s quarter-final too. Bayern took some time to come to terms with that and as the second half began, Ulreich committed a grave mistake when he could not even touch a Tolisso backpass and allowed it to roll past him.
Benzema could not believe his luck as he received the ball and scored one of the easiest goals of his career. There was no change in the script otherwise as Bayern continued their attacks and Real defended desperately. Rodriguez received a cross from Nicolas Sule inside the penalty box and beat Navas from close range to make it 2-2 in the 63rd minute. The avalanche of Bayern’s attacks continued but they were not good enough to beat the Real Madrid goalkeeper. Navas, the indisputable man of the match, stopped one attack after another to make sure that Real scraped through.
Bayern had the ball most of the times but did not find enough space inside the Real half whereas Real did not get the ball too often but whenever they got it, they had enough space inside the Bayern half. It was desperate penalty-box defending by Real as their players threw themselves to block or tackle relentless Bayern attacks. Bayern could not attack even half as much through their right wing as they did through their left.
Ribery and Alaba ran riot through the left wing and gave Lucas Vazquez, Real’s makeshift right-back, some torrid time. However, Muller could not do the same on the right side of the pitch. Kimmich tried very hard to compensate for that but could not do enough as he had to contend with the attacking threat of Marcelo as well. Bayern were missing an injured Arjen Robben very badly as he could have done some serious damage on that wing. Arturo Vidal’s absence was felt in the midfield too. Lewandowski was below par and hardly had any impact on the game.
Tolisso had a few attempts at the goal from the edge of the penalty box but could not hit the mark. Javi Martinez’s introduction in the 84th minute rejuvenated Bayern to some extent and added sting to their attack. Maybe he should have come in earlier. However, just before the final whistle, Muller failed again to make good contact with the ball inside the Real penalty box and Navas collected it easily.
In all, Bayern had more than 20 attempts at the Real goal. They enjoyed more than 60% of ball possession and forced Real to concede 12 corners. Still, Real Madrid survived somehow and made it to their 4th Champions League final in 5 years.