The second leg of this epic UEFA Champions League semifinal tie lived up to the hype, stretching every bit of imagination to its limit. This weekend saw how the result of the mandated domestic fixtures can be held responsible for the mood-reversal, following the first leg’s result. Real Madrid, who lost the first leg match against Bayern Munich, had to take on Barcelona over the weekend. A defeat at Camp Nou would have cut down Madrid’s lead from a massive ten points to a solitary one. But Madrid did not have any of it as the La Liga leaders strengthened their position on the top, stretching their lead over their bitter rivals to seven points. Now, it looks likely that Madrid will taste glory after conceding league trophy to the Blaugrana in each of the last three occasions.
Bayern’s last week’s euphoria called an abrupt halt when holders Dortmund successfully defended their Bundesliga title, with two games to spare. Even though the result was inevitable from Bayern’s point of view, especially ever since Bayern’s defeat against Dortmund, the timing could not have been worse. They knew they had their task cut out against Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, who were fresh from a huge victory and had the advantage of an away goal as well. Even Schweinsteiger voiced his opinion about how important it is to not to concede in the first 20 minutes. Now, let us see how Bayern came first among equals, albeit only just.
Real Madrid Strategy And Gameplay
How They Started?
[4-2-3-1] – Casillas, Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Alonso, Khedira, Di Maria, Özil, Ronaldo, Benzema.
Madrid made one change to the side that took on Bayern at the Allianz Arena. Marcelo replaced Coentrao at the left back position. Coentrao had a torrid time against Robben in the first leg. Moreover, in order to show more intent on attacking, Marcelo was given an opportunity ahead of the Portuguese. The strategy remained as it was in the first leg. Break down any attack using the two holding midfielders and hit on counter through Özil, Ronaldo and Di Maria. And defying any conservative prediction, Madrid rode on its recently-found confidence and a bit of luck and made the most of it within the first quarter of the game.
It all started with a very harsh penalty awarded to Madrid at the expense of an Alaba handball from inside the box, on the sixth minute. Ronaldo, who scored the winner against Barcelona, stepped up and calmly delivered the first blow for his side. Fourteen minutes into the game, and Ronaldo helped Madrid draw second blood as well when he latched on to a delightful through ball from Özil.
Soon afterwards, Madrid went into a shell and started playing the waiting game. They allowed Bayern to have a fair share of possession, invited them to attack, to exploit the gaps left by their own attackers. This strategy, however, backfired soon. Three minutes before the half-hour mark, Pepe’s shove on Gomez cost the team dear, and ex-Madridista Robben obliged for Bayern from the spot-kick.
With the game poised at 2-1 at the break, Madrid were well aware of the importance of not conceding another goal. They sat back and tried to stretch Bayern on counter. It was difficult for them as the Bayern defense marked Ronaldo out and narrowed the midfield down. With the exception of winning the penalty, Di Maria remained largely anonymous as Ribery and Alaba doubled on him on each occasion.
Marcelo did have a good game defensively as he looked less culpable against Robben. He forced Robben to cut inside instead of taking the byline route. However, Arbeloa was in for a disastrous night as Ribery proved to be a thorn in his side. Soon Robben and Ribery started swapping positions to make it even more forgettable for Arbeloa, who could only foul the Bayern wingers on occasions to stop the onslaught.
The centre halves had an ordinary day as well. Both of them failed to track Gomez’s movements, helping Kroos and Ribery to feed a number of chances to the lone striker – each of which could have proved costly on any other day. Pepe conceded the all important penalty and failed to mark Gomez on number of occasions. Ramos was anonymous for large parts of the game! Alonso and Khedira did justice to their role. When Marcelo went on attacking, Khedira did well to drop back and defend.
As the game wore on, Madrid looked like a tired unit. Somehow, the introduction of Kaka, Granero and Higuain gave them the much wanted energy in the tiring side. In the extra time, Madrid decided to go for the jugular as they started bombarding the Bayern defense with attacks generated from left, right and centre. The introduction of Kaka in place of an already tired Özil did wonders as Kaka held the ball well and created a great chance deep into the extra time. It surely looked like that Madrid did not want the game to go beyond extra time. The quality of the spot-kicks taken by Madrid footballers will hold a fair testimony to that. Be it Kaka’s weak placement or Ramos’ skier, Madrid never looked comfortable during the shootout and Mourinho’s prompt departure following Schweinsteiger’s winner said it all.
Top Performers – Iker Casillas, Mesut Özil, Cristiano Ronaldo
Bayern Munich Strategy And Gameplay
How They Started?
[4-3-3] – Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Badstuber, Alaba, Gustavo, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Robben, Ribery, Gomez.
Bayern went into the game with the same team and same game plan – keep possession, play with an attacking mindset and believe in each other’s ability to score at least one goal. Bayern showed exactly how to play in such a high profile game, despite going down by two goals within the first 14 minutes of the game. Just moments after the first goal, Alaba’s tenacious run and a perfect cross down the left flank produced Robben with an opportunity to draw level from just six yards out. However, the former Madrid winger failed to keep it down. Then telepathic positional sense of Gomez coupled with intelligent passing by Kroos created two more opportunities for the visitors. But the former floundered both the chances, failing to get past Casillas on each occasion.
Thanks to a delightful linkup between Gomez and Kroos, Bayern won the penalty, which Robben converted unconvincingly as Casillas got his fingertips to it. After scoring the first two goals, Madrid preferred to sit back and Bayern enjoyed good possession and created a number of chances in the remainder of the first half as well as in the second half. Unlike Barcelona wingers, Bayern wingers took the byline route on occasions, doubled the attack down the wings with Lahm and Alaba overlapping and often putting in crosses inside the box, causing more problems for the Madrid defense.
Even during Madrid’s counter attacks, Ribery, Robben and Gomez did brilliantly to track back and even put in challenges to win the ball. Gustavo had a great game in breaking down attacks. He played the role of Van Bommel on the night and even though he committed a string of fouls, his anticipation and ball winning ability helped Bayern retain possession during counter attacks. Schweinsteiger had an anonymous day. Except for winning the penalty during the shootout, he played second fiddle to Gustavo in the holding role, played second fiddle to Kroos as an auxiliary playmaker – without making any stark impact.
As the game wore on, Bayern tried to vary the pace of the game. They slowed the pace during Madrid’s counters and when it came to launch their own attack, they stepped on the gas. But as the game moved closer to the extra-time, Bayern seemed to slow the game even more and apparently looked to settle for a penalty shootout. Even during either half of the extra time, Bayern appeared to sit back and soak up the Madrid onslaught. It appeared as if shootout was very much in their plan. Except for Kroos’ ordinary spot-kick effort, their shots looked good. In case of Lahm’s shot, Casillas’s presence of mind came handy.
Badstuber and Alaba played way beyond their maturity level. Unfortunately both the players, along with Gustavo, will miss the final clash. Ribery and Robben had a great evening. The same cannot be said about Gomez. Gomez missed two sitters in the previous game before fortuitously slotting in the winner. Last night he fluffed anything and everything that came his way in the form of a through ball or a cross. The most horrible was the one deep into the second half, Robben picked him out inside the penalty box and all Gomez had to do is to place it properly. But Super Mario’s first touch let him down as he got into a comical tangle, later on only managed to scoop it to Casillas.
Top Performers – Manuel Neuer, Luiz Gustavo, David Alaba
TheHardTackle’s Player Of The Match
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
Just as Neuer did in the first leg, he was there to bail out the Bayern defense, yet again. He could do nothing for the goals conceded. Later on, he did not put a foot wrong in the entire game; positioned himself brilliantly against Ronaldo’d free-kicks, nullifying its effect. He managed to narrow down the angle when Kaka was inches close to score. Controversy surrounding Granero penalty appeal will be there, but replays showed that it appeared that Granero made most of it. Finally, he did brilliantly to deny Ronaldo and Kaka in the penalty shootout.