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 and also the middle was well defended by Isco, Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, Angel di Maria, and also the Real defense, that this wings seemed the only option for the Munich team. Ironically, Arjen Robben, perhaps their utmost offensive weapon, found himself double-teamed each time 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 an actual save from goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Thus went the 1st 18 minutes.
Then came part two of Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti's strategy. The counter, a Madrid specialty since Jose Mourinho's days, was at full gear and with the 19th minute Fabio Coentrao found Ronaldo at concerning the midfield line. The striker, incapable of do his usual sprints received, held and then delivered an ideal lead pass to his Portuguese teammate about the left wing. Coentrao's cross found Karim Benzema open with the far post for the easy store. The resulting score line, Real 1, Bayern 0, was truly up against the run of play.
But then your goal inspired Real and at the 25:46 mark another counter saw Ronaldo the recipient of a bouncing cross from Benzema, just about the penalty spot, as well as the Portuguese star miss-hit it over the crossbar when a simple downward touch would've ensured the second 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 and 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 make an appearance and carry your day. Real's formation must have been a surprise as was Ronaldo's walk out of onto the pitch.
As the next half began what each coach could caused by out-fox the other seemed the question to reply to, the members had already shown they might follow each leader's directions to a tee.
The first chess move was Ancelotti's because he substituted Gareth Bale for Ronaldo to wide applause. Then Guardiola countered attracting offensive players for midfielders and taking Frank Ribbery out. The gamble, adding numerous attacking players rescued Bayern from an impending Real possession get back. And it also provide Bayern with many more scoring opportunities.
At the 83rd minute Bayern's golden chance came. Mario Goetze was open inside bola the box, just to the right of goal contributing to two yards outside of the goalie's box, and took a point blank shot at goal going to left. But the best keeper within the world, the one that always reacts so quickly even when not contacted all game long, made the save and kept the score line intact for your Real Madrid win.
It could have been too little for Madrid. Bayern is certainly worth two goals in your own home. But Ancelotti is counting on both of his stars being healthy and ready for longer play in the next leg in Munich. It should be a casino game worthy of a championship final instead of a semifinal.